Monday, August 1, 2011

I'm not how does this camel through the eye of a needle thing work for me?

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

"Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”

"Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”-Mark 10:17-31

When people in the US read this passage, usually one of two reactions occur. Either, they think, "Yeah, see, those rich people at church that think they are better than everyone else because they drive a Lexus and vacation in Tahiti, it'll suck to be them when judgement time comes, huh?" Or you get the response, "This doesn't really apply to me, because God has given me all my wealth in the form of blessings because I've lived a good Christian life. I wouldn't want to upset God by giving away all these things He wanted me to have."

I hate to tell you, but if you are reading this blog right are a rich man. If you've taken a bath with clean, clear water ever in your life, you are a rich man. If you have ever seen a doctor in your life, you are a rich man. If you've had anything to eat in the past 24 hours, you are a rich man. And if God has ever blessed you with anything, you are a rich man and need to start giving everything away.

So the next question that comes, after realizing one is a rich man is, "So does this mean that I have to give everything I own away and make me and my family live on the streets, begging for food?"

Until recently, I wasn't even sure how to answer that, because I wondered the same thing myself.

Then I met a guy named Josh on a mission trip. Josh and his ministry partner Tim, left everything they had in Michigan and moved to Rogersville, TN, one of the poorest communities in the country. They started a ministry, One Body Ministry, where they go around to people's houses (some of them are better described as shacks) and for absolutely free, offer to do repair work or yard work or whatever to these people's homes. They have no income and live wholly and completely off of the blessings of the Lord as they dedicate their lives to His work.

Over the course of the week I was on the trip, I found out that Josh had hurts in his past that were similar to mine and one night we sat down with another woman on the trip, Megan, and talked through the spiritual struggles that we all had faced.

The moment that hit me though, was when Josh suggested the Celebrate Recovery Bible to me. He had struggled with alcohol issues and it had been a great resource to him, and, even though I haven't dealt with any sort of chemical addiction, he thought it would still be useful in my emotional recovery. After going on and on about how awesome it had been for him and how much he had and still does use it, he said, "I have it out in my truck. I can give you mine."

There are very few acts of sacrificial love that have hit me with the same impact as that one offer. Here is a guy, who earlier that day was interested in a used, stained, smelly mattress that we had taken out of a disgustingly filthy house we were working on because it was better than what he sleeps on every night, offering up his only copy of a book that meant so much to him, to a woman, that he just met and will likely never see again, who is so wealthy that she can honestly say she wants for nothing (at least materially). Wow...thinking about that kind of sacrificial giving still kicks me in the gut a month and a half later.

I realized that the kind of attitude toward possessions that Josh showed is likely what Jesus means in that story above. It's not necessarily that we have to sell everything and live a life of voluntary poverty. It is that we must know that Jesus comes first and others come second, and the things God has given us are to be tools used to keep those two things in the top two spots. The only way to truly be free in a consumeristic culture such as ours is to not claim possession of anything we own. We are merely caretakers of them until God decides someone else needs them. God may bless us, but that is because we are His distribution company. As His followers, His blessings may come to us in bulk, but we are to turn around and distribute the blessings widely to anyone in need.

Deuteronomy 8:17-18 states, "You may say to yourself, 'My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.' But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today." If you follow that line of thought with Deuteronomy 10:14, "To the LORD your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it," you can see that our possessions are really only an illusion. The Lord certainly giveths, and takes away, but He also wants to see us grow to the point of us giving away when we see a need.

So, how do you do this without actually giving all your belongings away? For me, it's simple. Walk through your house and ask yourself, "if the dirtiest, nastiest, most undeserving person showed up on my doorstep and needed this _______ (fill in blank), would I be able to give it to them with a happy heart?" If the answer is no to anything you own (or for some people, everything they own), then start exploring why that is, praying to God to reveal what it is that is binding you to things that aren't really yours. In the end, you will experience a freedom from possession and consumerism that few in our culture today will realize. And you'll have a much easier time fitting through the eye of that needle!

If you wish to support Josh and Tim in their ministries (or be part of that blessing from God that they rely on to live), you may contact them at,

One Body Ministry
PO Box 262
Rogersville, TN 37857

No comments: