Matthew 19:21-23– Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Ezekiel 16:49 Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
2 Corinthians 8:1-9 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Luke 12:15 & 32-34 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”… “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
1 Timothy 6:8-10 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
James 2:5 & 5:1- Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?… Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Revelation 3:17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.
I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Psalm 63:1 Dave, in the Dessert of Judah…
O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
Psalm 107:8-9 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Acts 2:42-47 & 4:32-34 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved… /All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them.
I think we like to avoid a lot of the verses above; they make us feel uncomfortable. Why does Jesus give a radical command to his disciples ‘sell your possessions and give to the poor…’? Why does it seem that in the Bible God is closest to the poor or to those in the greatest need? What does wealth and abundance do to us? Is it a ‘snare’ as Paul tells Timothy? Can it really make us become like the Church in Revelation who basically said to Jesus: “I do not need a thing.” Why is self sufficiency and being satisfied with our possessions sound like such dangerous things in Scripture?
I believe to “have” really can encourage two root areas of sin oftened mentioned throughout the whole Bible: pride & idolatry. When we “have” we don’t “need.” And when we don’t “need” we “have” pride in ourselves. When we “have” our sin nature’s defaut programming is to transform our “have” into an idol. An idol is something we become captivated by, or look to for satisfaction and fulfillment instead of God. (this is idol worship). Worship doesn’t mean just bowing down to our singing to a piece of carved stone or wood. Worship is placing great dependance on or having great affection for something in place of God. This is what naturally and often happens when we “have.”
So is Jesus really serious when he says we should “sell our possessions and give to the poor”? I don’t think Jesus would have said this to his disciples if he didn’t mean it. I also don’t think we would see all the early followers of Jesus laying “all their possessions at the disciples feet” if the disciples didn’t take Jesus’ Word seriously.
So what does this mean? Does it mean to own things is evil? I don’t think so. But I think “having” things can be a problem. I think nothing that have should be seen as “ours, ourselves.” We need to hold the things we receive very loosely and remember that nothing really is ours, but God’s. The savings account is God’s, the tax refund is God’s, the roof over our head is God’s. So the question may not be, “Is it wrong to own these things?” but maybe the question should be, “Since God owns these things, how would he “have” them?”
Our God is huge on sharing. We are instructed to be generous and to share our money, time, and resources because God has been rich toward us. This means we should be quick to give away the things that come our way. We also should remember that Jesus became poor so we could become rich (and that’s a huge understatement). And we are also told to be like Jesus. (Ouch! That’s hard!) So, it’s good to become poor so others may be rich? Yes. Truly!
See, our accumulating wealth and seeing things as ours really tells people a lot about our Savior. This may shock you, but I think what it tells the people around us is this: “Jesus is still dead.” It was the living Jesus who told his followers to give their lives and things away because Jesus told them there was a storehouse of treasure in heaven that he’d be bringing with him when He returns.(consider at the end of Revelation that says, “Look! I am coming soon and my reward is with me!”) So, by us storing things up now and not becoming poor, we are basically telling people around us that Jesus is not returning with treasure and Jesus is not rich in rewards. If we live like Jesus is not returning then the world concludes: “Jesus is still dead.” Do we live like Jesus rose from the grave or do we live as if He is still in the grave?
So, it doesn’t mean that things are evil or that owning things are bad. It does mean that we should be quick to give away and quick to share the things we do have with both our friends and enemies. This tells the world that Jesus has a greater reward and lasting treasure that He is bringing when He returns to reign on the earth forever. And this should look foolish to the world. This crazy willingness to impoverish ourselves for the sake of others should cause the world to scratch its head instead of grant the Church thunderous praise.
Why is this important? It’s important because the world really is under the curse right now. There is great poverty right now. 34,000 children died today because they didn’t have a simple thing called food. Most people in the world live on less than $1 dollar a day (that’s $365 in a year for the Math majors out there). Millions of people do not have clean drinking water. Millions of people bath in water that is dirtier than U.S.A sewer water. Jesus wants us to become poor so we can be rich toward those who are feeling the greatest effects of sin and the curse. When Jesus returns it will be a time of feasting, celebrating and enjoyment. There won’t be any curse than and there will be no hunger or thirst. So, why do we so often join with the rich in their celebration now when so many others are suffering? Why do we often live the motto: “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.” That motto should not be lived by us who believe in the resurrection. It should not be lived by those who say with their mouth that they are looking forward to King Jesus’ return when he will make “all things new.” Why do we live as if things will remain just as they are now? Dont we often live like the scoffers in 2 Peter 3: ‘First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.’ If we live rich now, we tell the world that Jesus really won’t be bringing riches later. We tell the world that Jesus really doesn’t satisfy us; we really need what they need. When we have much we really need Jesus little. That’s really the truth. There’s never been a time where I’ve had a lot and been desperately hungry for or even dependent on Jesus.
I want to finish this post by sharing what I’ve been doing lately. I’m learning that hunger is something I no longer fear but can use. I’m learning to live more simply and give thankfully and generously. What does this really look like?
When I go to Meijer, I am no longer asking, “What do I want?” but “What do I need to survive and depend on Jesus more?” I am buying a lot less and giving a lot more away. I buy cheap cereal (only try and buy ones for around a dollar a box), 67cent mac and cheese, 1 dollar a box flavored rice, and cans of soup. I buy just enough meat for sandwhiches. I buy fruit, lettuce, and juice. I buy things we share at the house: bread and milk. I’ll only buy frozen dinners if they are under $2 and one box or bag of crackers or chips. And when I run out of some things I go without until I’m out of the basic nessesities.
When I eat, I cut one slice of bread in half and enjoy a half a sandwhich. And I just try and eat smaller portions of everything. When I feel hungry, I don’t immediately run and get food, instead I pray. Sometimes it’s as simple as, “Lord I’m hungry, make me more hungry for you.” So, the hunger actually has begun to function as a reminder of my dependance on God. I hope that this is what fasting is.
So, am I a legalist? I don’t think so. If friends are going to get some food together, I still will join them (although I may buy just enough). That’s it! The man who started Habitat for Humanity once said that Christians need to learn a “theology of enough.” That man began wealthy and he literally sold all his possessions and started that organization after becoming a Christian. He just died this past year.
Have you ever tried giving more away than what you typically live on? Did you know Jesus promises that if we depend on Him we will never hunger or thirst? So where are you at? Do you “have” or “hunger”?
I want to close with some things that Paul says and I want you to notice the part that we Americans often overlook. These parts I have put in bold.
Philippians 4:11-13 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.