Now the rubber starts hitting the road even more violently. Not that it’s been easy at all to deal with all this internal stuff so far, but let’s face it: At some point, all that inner conviction has to begin manifesting itself as outward fruit. As Jesus’ half-brother James said, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14–17). Or, even more pointedly:
[B]ehold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Matthew 19:16–22).
It’s easy to distance ourselves from this story. After all—to put it in terms relevant to the time I’m writing this—we’re part of “the 99 percent,” right? We’re not really rich. Many of us have trouble meeting our bills on a day-to-day basis.
But consider this: The money you spent on the last book you purchsed is more than the daily income of more than a third of the world’s population. Still feel like a 99-percenter?
Ultimately, it’s not about what we have or don’t have. We can be rich and hold our riches loosely. Likewise, one can be genuinely poor and still greedy. It’s all about our incessant need to have it. We want to possess and to be possessed, and those are our biggest problems. Are we willing to put everything we have at Jesus’ disposal—or, if called upon like the rich young ruler, dispose of it altogether in order to follow him the way he calls us to?
I think we know the answer, if we’re honest. In fact, I think the real “one-percenters” are those who can answer “yes” to that last question—and mean it.
And yet, Jesus calls every one of us to lay down our possessions—or more specifically, our possessing. As Americans, we are all too accustomed to spending beyond our means. As Christians, we are called to give beyond our means (2 Corinthians 8:3).What do we hang on to more than Jesus—and for that matter, what do we consider to be more important than the people he puts in front of us to serve? Whatever that is, it’s time to release our grips on those things.
Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:27–29).
We do not serve a God of either/or, but a God of both/and—if we’re willing to surrender all of our tiny little kingdoms and properties and belongings to him. God must rule over the things he’s given us, and be the one who determines how they’re used. As John Piper says in Desiring God, “It is better to love than to live in luxury!” Are we willing to put that to the test?
Lay It Down Today
I can’t tell you what to do here. But if you’re honest with yourself and willing to let God address this, you’re going to come up with things to lay down in a hurry. So that’s your assignment. Spend time together, just you and God. Ask him to point out those things that you’ve let possess you. Scream and cry about having to let them go, if you must, but resolve to follow Jesus, no matter what the temporary cost. Trust that he will provide what you truly need. And remember: He may not be providing it only for you.