Ripley’s “Believe It Or Not”… Joy and the Rich Young Ruler have something in common: both are unable to sell all they have and give to the poor. My possessions are most likely less valuable than those owned by The Rich Dude, yet there are parallels. “Jesus said to him, If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21 Rich Dude hung his head and slowly walked away: “But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.” Matthew 19:22.
I’ve known this story, this “little incident” and I’ve understood it, but recently, I have come to realize that even though I am not “rich”, I still wrestle with letting go of my possessions so that I too, can follow Jesus. I don’t sell them, I donate them to the local thrift shop, so I’ll consider that giving to the poor, but I can understand why the rich young ruler struggled and how his love of and entrapment of “things” kept him from selling them so he would be free to follow our Lord. He just couldn’t let go…
I’ve discovered how all of my entrapments, possessions, and especially our remodeling projects distract us/me from fully serving the Lord. There is always a house repair, yard project, craft idea, book, magazine, article or newspaper to read, or a fantastic thought to write about that keeps me from digging deep into the scriptures. Could I stop in my tracks and actually give up these things? Could I really sell or give away my craft supplies? Would I be able to turn loose of all the possessions, distractions, projects, comforts, entertainment? Jesus knows how these things in our lives keep us from serving Him if we are using them to serve ourselves. The time I spend on my personal pursuits is time I could be spending to minister to others; I could be storing up treasures in heaven instead of treasures here on earth.
“…and come, follow Me.” Jesus knows that what we own can keep us from following Him. Jesus didn’t own a thing that I’m aware of other than the clothes on His back and the sandles on His feet. Part of the American Dream is constantly improving your home by upgrading appliances, kitchens, bathrooms, landscaping, a newer car, great vacations, better hand tools, the latest style of clothing, the coolest phone or electronic gadget… there are so many things that divert our attention away from the Lord.
If Jesus stood before me (and actually He does) and told me to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor, could I do it? Would I do it? Am I doing it? To be honest, no, I’m not. Oh, I slowly give things away–and sometimes it feels like I’m cutting off a limb– but I guess the real question to ask myself, is, when I give away a “distraction”, something that took up my time, am I in turn, using that newly reclaimed time for the Lord, or am I replacing it with another distraction? Am I slowly walking away because I know I can’t give it all to the poor and follow the Lord?
When reading about Missionaries who “gave it all up” to follow the Lord, I used to feel sorry for them thinking of how much they had relinquished: a house, American lifestyle, familiar comforts, perhaps TV or car. But when I looked closer (and grew in my faith) I could see that what they gave up was of no consequence when compared to what they gained. That’s my goal; to realize that these insignificant possessions I have here on this earth are of no lasting value if I center my focus on them instead of serving God. The American Dream–our “riches” are tough to turn away from, however I see God slowly removing our ability as a nation to acquire these things. Is He forcefully turning our attentions towards Him?
I’ve had the doll in the above photo for at least 50 years . A neighbor lady gave it to me when I was about 5 years old; it had been her childhood doll. I’ve kept it all these years, but finally, just a week ago, I donated it to our local historical museum; I’ve set her free! “The Nameless Doll” will now be available for the viewing enjoyment of others. I also gave the child’s chair to my niece.