This is part 2 of, “Poverty, Stuff, & Giving. Click here to read part 1.
Whenever the subject of poverty and helping the poor come up Christians are quick to recall Matthew 19:21 when Jesus told the rich young man, “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.” We can read that and conclude that our possessions are bad and that God wants us to sell everything we have- and if we continue to dwell on this we believe God doesn’t want us to enjoy our “things”.
But I don’t think that is why Jesus told the man to sell his stuff.
About two years ago our family moved to the San Francisco Bay area with two other families to start South Bay Church. One of the things that weighed heavy on me during our decision process was the feeling that this move was going to require us to give up some “stuff”. So part of my decision to move was also a commitment to God that I was willing to release everything I had to him- no matter what it was.
What did that look like practically? In many of my moments with God I felt like He was asking me to consider flying to California and taking only what the plane permitted- the rest we would sell or leave behind. This was a big stretch for me (maybe it wouldn’t be for you, but for me it was huge).
“Seriously?” I thought to myself. “Could I really move to California and only take three or four large suitcases and a few carry-ons?”
Some days I would sit in my rather large house and look around at everything and ask myself, “am I willing to leave…the painting that took me a year to find, that bookshelf that went perfectly in the dining room, my girl’s toys, etc., etc. ”. I did this for months and weeks leading up to our move.
This wasn’t something that everyone on our team did nor were they expected to, but I knew this was something God was working on in my heart.
You see, it’s the condition of our heart that matters in these situations- not the amount of possessions we have. Jesus didn’t tell the rich man to sell his stuff because they were bad to have, I think Jesus told him to because He knew his possessions were what was standing in between him and God. If the man’s heart was completely surrendered his response would have been much different. Matthew 19:22 goes on to say, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth”.
Why didn’t the man just do what Jesus asked? Because he couldn’t let go of his stuff… and Jesus knew it.
When moving time came for us, we ended up being able to take a little more than the plane allowed. Our final space allotment was our small SUV pulling a small trailer (5×8) and a few boxes that went with Archie and Rebekah. I still left behind a lot of “favorites”, but looking back on it I think God just wanted me to get to the point of being able to walk away from everything. Plus, the willingness to leave it all made me even more grateful for what we were finally able to take.
I’m so thankful for this opportunity and for God changing my heart. I’m also grateful for my husband and his leadership in this area. He played a huge role in influencing this attitude in me. He could walk away from his stuff at the drop of a hat without question. When living in Charleston, our garage was full of tools. Filipe loved working in the garage- building stuff and tinkering with different things, but he didn’t think twice about selling his “collection”- even after the five years it took building into it. We knew we’d be living in an apartment for a while at first so it just didn’t make sense to drag it along- weighing us down.
God’s has blessed our family so much and provided for us abundantly. I think a huge reason is because of Filipe’s generous heart, his willingness to put God first above everything, and the ability to “use well” what we’ve been given. I’m continually amazed at the stuff we’ve been GIVEN– two iPhone’s, an iPad, a Macbook, and countless gift cards are just a few examples of right recently.
I believe God loves to bless us with things to enjoy as long as it doesn’t stand between us and God and as long as we are using it well.
“To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who are unfaithful, even what little they have will be taken away.” Matthew 25:29
Tomorrow I’ll share more about generosity and using our stuff well.