One common question that I did not address in my talk last Saturday is: Do I have to sell my stuff and give to the poor in order to follow Christ?
Where does this question stem from?
In Luke 12, we find a provocative series of remarks from Jesus. First, addressing the crowd, he tells a story of a rich man who built bigger barns for himself, collecting more possessions that he might enjoy his life. Jesus calls the man a fool and the story ends with the rich man's life being suddenly taken from him in judgment of his greed.
Jesus follows up this story with a personal address to his disciples, instructing them not to be anxious about material things, such as clothes and food, but rather to trust in the daily provision of their Father. He then instructs them, " “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
A second place we find this radical call to "sell your possessions and give to the poor" is found in Mark 10, where a young, rich man approaches Jesus and inquires as to what he must do to receive eternal life. He vouches for his own moral integrity, saying he has kept all of the commandments of Scripture (really??). Jesus, looks deeper inside the man, he "felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
There are two common extremes of response to Jesus' instructions found here for his disciples and this young, rich man. The first is to universalize the teaching and say that to be a true disciple of Christ, one must be completely obedient to sell everything. The second extreme is to entirely minimize and depersonalize these words of Scripture and say that it was a specific instruction for specific people at a specific time and we are not bound to Jesus words. The truth is, both of these extremes are incorrect applications of God's Word.
Now, as David Platt says in Radical, if you breathe a sigh of relief at this acknowledgement, thinking "Phew, good, I can keep my stuff," then perhaps Jesus' words here are for you personally. Ultimately, we each have a discipleship call from Christ. He knows the idols of our hearts, our motivations, our fleshly weaknesses. As his followers, it is not just righteousness by faith that is our gift from him, but we also "share in his sufferings" as Paul so clearly states.
We must each look at Christ and his Word and ask: Am I willing to go as far as he asks me to? What is he saying to me?
Thankfully, our Father looks compassionately upon his children and is patient with us. But he is also so jealous for our undivided allegiance, that he is willing to ask us - require of us? - difficult endeavors. Greed and worldliness will kill us and he cares too much about us to let us get numbed and killed by them. For some, that will mean selling everything and giving to the poor. For some it will mean moving to the inner city. For some it will mean befriending very difficult people. For some it will mean risking getting fired at work or losing the affection of your co-workers because you had to stand on the side of integrity rather than greed.
But, remember, we must each look at the cross and empty tomb, the only place we find the hope, grace and joy to willingly lay down our lives for the glory of God and the service of our neighbors.
Is Jesus asking you to sell your possessions and give to the poor. Maybe. Just maybe. He cares more about our devotion than he does about us having lots of stuff and comfort. He says to each of us the same thing he said to his disciples, "Do not be afraid."