Sunday, May 17, 2009

Carboard Boxes Full of Treasures

"Give away all your stuff and follow me." That's essentially what Jesus tells the rich young ruler (Luke 18:22). It's a passage I've wrestled with for years, and came to my mind again as a I reflected upon this past week. After graduating from college last weekend, I packed up most of my belongings, crammed them into my family's van, and headed home. That was just the beginning. My family is hoping to put our house on the market next week, so the Realtor tells us our house (where we've lived for over ten years) needs to be organized and open. My closet needs to be half empty, some of the many bookshelves need to go, cabinets must be emptied and moved... you get the picture. This boils down to hours of packing and moving and organizing and packing and moving. Mom says our stuff has become a burden.

I've always thought it wouldn't be that hard to live with only the most necessary possessions. When I travel I happily get by on the few items that fit into my small suitcase. As long as I have enough food to sustain me, enough clothes to keep me warm, friends to be with, and most importantly, God as my portion, I am quite content. Or is there one more stipulation: that all my treasured belongings are safely at home or in my parent's attic?

You see, what I've realized this week is that it's one thing to think about living for God, unhindered by material possessions. It's another thing to actually give away that comfy sweater I wear on the weekends, or that set of dishes for special occasions, or that box of items from my childhood, each of which are tied to memories. And what about all those things which were gifts? Somehow it doesn't seem right to give them away again, especially if we use or enjoy them, or if they remind us of a dear friend. It seems that Jesus doesn't ask everyone to give away all they own, but he did ask that one man to do so, and I often wonder what exactly, if not that, he asks of me.

Jesus and his disciples discuss how it is nearly impossible for a rich man to enter God's kingdom. Then Jesus says something which encourages me: "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (Luke 18:27) We really can't do this on our own, but God, the all-powerful God, will graciously reach out to help us.

Despite this graciousness on the part of our Lord, shouldn't we also at least try? By just living in the way that I am most comfortable, trusting God to change me and free me from my attachment to things, I am pretty sure I am "cheapening" God's grace (to borrow a concept from Deitrick Bonhoeffer). I need to pray that God will change me, and to practice things like generosity. This isn't works righteousness. This is recognizing my tendencies to be selfish and hoard things unless I discipline myself otherwise, and pleading my need for grace.

I think these thoughts also apply to how we spend our time, but I talked about that on March 9th. Will you join me in this struggle? It is my prayer that, twenty years from now, through His grace I will find it easier, rather than harder, to give away anything and everything as I follow Christ.

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