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29th September 2013
This is the final blog post in a series adapted from Gagging Jesus by Phil Moore and is used here with permission. Gagging Jesus is available here. Scroll down to read the first two parts of this series.
They may not mean stripping down to our underwear like Giovanni Francesco de Bernardone, but Jesus makes four statements in this passage (Mark 10:17-30) that require a radical response of our own.
First, Jesus talks about possessions because He loves us. Mark 10 tells us that "Jesus looked at him and loved him". God isn't in need of our handouts. He wants us to give Him our possessions because He knows that it will do us good. The French author Andre Gide observed: "Complete possession is proved only by giving. All you are unable to give possesses you." Jesus doesn't talk about money in order to back us into a corner. He talks about money to set us free.
Second, Jesus talks about possessions because they make us self-sufficient. The rich young ruler addresses Jesus as "good teacher" because that is all he thinks he needs Jesus to be. Even when Jesus recites the Ten Commandments and challenges him that no one is good except God alone, he still can't see how much he needs a Saviour. Jesus tells him to give away his possessions so that he will get into the habit of looking to God each day for provision and forgiveness and salvation.
Rich people can rely on God (like Joseph of Arimathea in Matthew 27:57), but Jesus tells us that such faith is rare. He tells each of us to give away enough of our possessions so that we can no longer be self-sufficient.
Jesus tells us we ought to give away more than generous unbelievers (Matthew 5:20 and 23:23), but His emphasis here and in Luke 21:1-4 is not so much on how we give as it is on how much we have left over. Unless what we give away devastates our standard of living and throws us onto God's mercy daily, the we aren't giving enough away.
Third, Jesus talks about possessions because they can distract us. The rich young ruler's problem was that he was straitjacketed by his fortune. He could afford whatever he wanted but he couldn't afford to give it all away. Peter left his fishing business to follow Jesus. Matthew left a table piled high with Roman coins. Zacchaeus promised: "Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." But the rich young ruler went away sad.
People who follow the real Jesus keep their focus on what matters and take radical steps to prevent their possessions from distracting them. They have the same spirit that made Charles T. Studd explain to sports fans: "I knew that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last, but it was worthwhile living for the world to come... If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him."
Fourth, Jesus talks about possessions because they can make us poor. When Peter complains about how much he has given away, Jesus reminds him that God views our gifts as an investment in His goodness, and that He will reward us both in this age and in the age to come. Charles T. Studd reflected on this passage towards the end of his life and concluded:
"God has promised to give a hundredfold for everything we give to Him. A hundredfold is a wonderful percentage; it is ten thousand percent. God began to give me back the hundredfold wonderfully quick. Not long after this I was sent down to Shanghai... When I saw that brother right soundly converted I said, 'This is ten thousand percent and more'... What is it worth to possess the riches of the world, when a man comes to face eternity? ... I have tasted most if the pleasures that the world can give. I do not suppose there was one that I had not experienced; but I can tell you that these pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me.'"
Jesus therefore warns you to view your possessions as potential enemies in your own home. They can possess you, they can distract you, they can drive you away from God, and they can therefore impoverish you. Jesus urges you to treat your earthly riches as mere pocket money, given to you by your heavenly Father in order to train you to handle the true riches of heaven.
So let's give away our money and possessions for the sake of God's Kingdom. Let's give away so much that our lifestyle is seriously affected. Let's give until we feel alarmed at the thought of how much this means we are going to have to rely on God each day. Let's give like Francis of Assisi and like Charles T. Studd, and let's dedicate whatever possessions we have left to the One who gave up His life so that He could set us free.
Posted by Natalie Williams