“Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” Matthew 19:21-22
The immensity of that two-word phrase has been rolling around in my head and weighing heavily on my heart for several weeks now. Maybe that’s why I’ve been silent here for so long.
Lately, I’ve been taking a very serious, in-depth look at my Christianity. I hope to share more of this with you as time and the Holy Spirit allow, but for the last four to six months, I’ve been examining every part of what I believe and assessing why I believe it. I want to be sure that all of it is in Scripture; that all of it is well pleasing to the Lord. I must be certain that my life is lining up to His Word, and I deeply feel the urgency of this.
Why? Because at the end of the day (that Great and Final Day), the only thing that will matter is whether I was faithful to the Lord. Whether I was obedient to His Word. All of it. Even those parts that are hard or uncomfortable; those that may be unpopular, and even cause people to question my rationality. The Lord has been faithfully reminding me that His earliest followers did the things that were hard; sacrificed their comfort (and often their lives) for the sake of the Gospel. They were considered, by most, extreme; by many, crazy, and by others, rebellious.
“Rebellious.” That is the word that I have struggled with the most. I desire deeply that people know that my intentions are pure. I have come to accept, however, that some may not, and I am resolved to be OK with that. Rebellion is something that is addressed very strongly in the Bible. It is condemned on the same level as witchcraft. When I consider this, though, I know that following Jesus, taking Him at His word, and putting those words into practice is the exact opposite of rebellion. The world’s perception is upside down, and let’s face it – the more like Jesus we become, the less the world at large will like us. But it’s not just the world. Even the modern Pharisees, (those who are more worried about the “traditions of their fathers” than obedience to the Word of God,) will hate us! Perhaps, as in Jesus’ experience, even more than the unbelieving world. They may try to discredit us, defame us, question our character and sincerity, or even destroy us.
Shane has been going through a similar journey, and when he brought this Scripture to me, and spoke the words, “sell all,” I must admit that the words that I desperately wanted to speak were: “Please! No!”
I have read the story of the “rich young ruler” many times. I have heard those words of Jesus recounted to me by preachers, Sunday school teachers, and my parents since I was in pigtails. Just about every time that I considered his reaction to the Savior, I would think, How sad! Or He could have followed Jesus! He gave him a personal invitation to come with Him! And He was righteous, but got hung up on his STUFF! What a fool he was!
This time, however (rather than hurl accusations at a Bible page), I was compelled to ask myself a few questions.
”Am I really so different? What would I have done differently, in the same situation? How might I have responded to Jesus?”
But, these hypothetical questions are just that…hypothetical. They don’t give me a real picture of where I am. So I must ask myself another question: “How have I responded to Jesus?”
Many of us have been taught to expect the blessing of the Lord when we are following Him, and we can! But what exactly does the blessing of the Lord look like? Is it material? Can I hold it in my hands? Is it a large bank balance? Are riches really even a blessing at all? What if Jesus looked you in the eye and told you that YOU needed to sell YOUR house, car, stuff, to inherit the Kingdom of God? Would you do it?
That is the exact crisis we have been facing.
But…that’s missionary level stuff, right? That’s pretty radical. Do I really need to go that far? When I am honest with myself and read the Great Commission, that is exactly what Jesus calls His followers to – missionary level.
In Mark 16:15, Jesus says, “Go YE into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (emphasis mine)
Yes, there is work for me to do here, but am I treating the place that I live as a true mission field? Or is it too easy to think that my children are my only ministry and to be satisfied with that? Do I wake every day thinking about the needs of the people in my neighborhood? Am I asking myself how I can minister the love of Jesus to my community?
What about that homeless person on the corner? Am I guilty of the words and inaction of James 2:16?
“Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”
In a word…yes.
True, I no longer drive past these people that Jesus loves without looking them in the eye, but, am I giving them an empty “God bless you,” or “God loves you,” and neglecting to put shoes on their feet or food in their mouths? Have I taken the time to actually get to know these that God has fearfully and wonderfully made? Will I ask them for their name, and tell them mine?
What about the widow I know? Do I consider her loneliness and call her? Am I making her a meal or cleaning her house when she can’t? Am I helping her with errands?
What about the orphan and the fatherless? Will I give them what they need? Do I invite them, not just to Sunday school, but into our home to play with our kids and to have a meal when they would otherwise be alone? When they come over at an inconvenient or difficult time for me, do I turn them away with my words and expressions, or do I joyfully invite them in anyway?
Friends, the Lord has really nailed me on this one. Because we have literally adopted three of the fatherless, I thought I was OK. But there are so many kiddos that my kids come into contact with that are practically orphaned. Even if they live in the same home with a living parent, many of these need an adult in their lives that are invested in them, who will welcome them, stand by them and show them the love of an eternal Father.
Do I make this life of serving Jesus look appealing or like a real drag? Do I have a smile on my face? Am I kind to the checker in the grocery store? Am I in such a hurry that I get irritated when someone’s debit or EBT, or WIC card won’t work in the line? Am I reacting in a godly way when someone cuts me off in traffic? Do my neighbors see me smiling and waving or do I have a furrowed brow? When people sell door to door, do I listen to them because they’re PEOPLE? Or do I shut them down because I don’t have time?
Every one of these questions are ones I have been asking myself lately. And I feel like I have been “weighed in the balances and am found wanting.” That may sound extreme, as those of you who have read Daniel know that Belshazzar ended up dying in condemnation when that phrase was spoken to him. But if I refuse to do the things that Jesus commands in Matthew 25, here lies the true rebellion that I should fear. If I rebel against these things, I will face the separation of the sheep and the goats based on my apathy toward the “least of these, my brethren”. Am I giving a cup of cool water? Feeding the hungry? Clothing the naked? Visiting the sick and imprisoned?
What if the biggest reason that salvation looks so empty and void to the world is that they don’t see these things in ME?
So, dear Mama Friends, I now relay the invitation that Jesus gave to the rich young ruler; that He has given to me; that He has given to you.
I am not Nehemiah Mama. We are Nehemiah Mamas, as we do our part where we are. I ask you to walk this road with me, and as I share with you my challenges, successes and failures, I ask you to do the same.
I am truly excited to see where Jesus leads us as we follow Him closely; as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, together!
Blessings and much love,