(In which I write a very long post, knowing full well that the likelihood of someone reading all of a post is inversely proportional to its length yet I do so anyway and hope against hope for comments.)
I’ve been taught, and I fully believe, that having a relationship with Jesus is one of the most, if not the most, important goal of life here on earth. By relationship, I mean what the church commonly refers to as ‘fellowship’. That means if Jesus were sitting before you as flesh and blood at this very moment then you could sit down with him, shuffle a deck of cards, and play a little Rummy together while he shared with you the secrets of how you should live while on this earth. You would listen to and respect him as you would your other dear friends and he would do the same to you.
And how should you live? One thing I’ve spent most of this morning thinking about is an important part of that answer. We should live a giving life. We should always be willing to give to those in need. Some of ‘those in need’ don’t seem very deserving of giving, you might say. Think on Proverbs 19:17 “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.” When you give, you are not just giving to the wino who is going to take that money and buy more alcohol to dull his pain; you are lending to the Lord. And what you lend, he will return to you. Now, that’s not the reason you lend. If Jesus was in front of you and needed $5 for a Value Meal at McD’s, you would most likely give it to him. I would assume that most people that care enough to give him the money would give it to him without expecting or even wanting payment in return. Really, hasn’t Jesus already done enough for you that you don’t need to hold him accountable for $5?
(Aside: I just thought of a great idea for a gift for homeless people. If you are afraid they are going to drink away any money you give them, maybe it would be neat to carry around restaurant gift certificates to give out instead of cash. Some low-key restaurant that they wouldn’t feel awkward entering would probably be the best idea. How does that sound, as far as ideas go?)
And what might Jesus tell someone like me who is sitting across the table from him playing cards? Someone who says to him, “I really do have the best intentions of getting closer and closer to you, but I’m not sure how to do it. Or, I do know how to do it, but am unwilling to take that step, which I don’t think I am but I very well may be…what am I missing? What must I do to gain eternal life?” Would Jesus say, like he said to the rich young ruler, “sell everything you own, give it to the poor and follow me.” Probably. And if he was sitting right directly in front of me, why in the world wouldn’t I? The problem is that he is not here in the flesh and once I’ve sold all my material wealth I wouldn’t know what to do next!
Therein lies my problem. I need to have my steps and destination fully planned out before I embark on the trip. I’m not the kind of person to sell all my belongings without knowing what it going to happen to me once the proceeds are given to the poor. I need to know where I’ll be staying, who will be feeding me, how I’ll be getting to work, etc. To me, this shows a lack of faith.
Actually, I can easily say, now that I’m married, that if I was single I’d have no problem at this point in life selling everything and giving it all to the poor. I would, however, be tempted to merely stash away extra money every month and give that extra to the poor instead of giving away everything. But, I think if I was called to do it, as a single person I could have reached the point where I was willing to give away everything. Now I have an excuse not to, though. Now I am married and I can use the excuse of needing to provide for and take care of my wife as the reason not to sell everything and give it all to the poor. I’m sure this is just another excuse, one of my many defense mechanisms kicking in to spare me from doing something my flesh desperately does not want to do.
And here’s why. Who’s to say that we wouldn’t end up better off in the end than we are now? Granted, we would have a kind of surety from the word of God that we’d be better off eternally, but what about the time we have remaining on this earth? Who’s to say that someone incredibly wealthy would not see our plight and take us in? We may end up in a better house, with better cars, and with all of our bills completely paid off.
See, there is this certainty that if Jesus was here walking the earth in bodily form again, we could sell all and follow him knowing that all of our needs would always be met. Did the disciples lack for food, shelter, and clothing? Was the multitude following him turned away hungry? Did the Lord lack money to pay taxes? Did the disciples lack a room in which to celebrate the Passover? No. Jesus took care of their every need while he was around, but I have not this surety of who to run to if I lose everything.
I know, with the part of me that lives on faith, that Jesus will supply my every need, but I lack what it takes to prove it. So, I find myself turning away, much like the rich young ruler we read about in the Bible. He turned away sad because he had much riches. I turn away sad not because of my riches, but because of my need to know how it will all work out for good before I dare follow.
May God have mercy upon my soul.