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.”  (Matthew 19:21)

Have you ever really thought about this statement and all that it entails?  I have encountered many who wonder whether Jesus is commanding all Christians to go and sell everything they have.  But if you continue to read this passage and other passages in the Bible, it is easy to see that Jesus is not commanding this of everyone.  Rather, He is requesting it of this one particular wealthy man because Jesus knows the condition of the man’s heart. 

Even knowing this fact though, have you thought about the condition of your heart, and where your heart’s focus is?  How OK would you be if fire consumed all your material possessions right now?  If you could take only one or two material things with you what would it be?  When we were taking an adoption class a while back, we had to do a very interesting exercise.  I encourage you to do the same, but I suggest you do the exercise step by step, as you read, and don’t read ahead….

Take 7 small slips of paper.  On each slip, write 1 item that means a great deal to you.  Try to be as specific as possible (i.e. red dress vs. clothing–don’t use one word for both, as they are different).  When you are finished, you should have written the 7 things that are most meaningful in your life.  Got it? 

Now for step 2.  Pick 3 of those things and throw them away–they were just taken from you.  Which 3 of the 7 can you spare?  Which 4 do you hold onto? 

Step 3, Pick 2 more and toss them–they, too, were just taken from you.  Which 2 will you spare?  Which 2 do you hold onto?  Now you are getting an idea as to what is truly most important in your life.

Step 4, Pick 1 of the remaining 2 items and make it disappear.  What are you left with?

We found this exercise to really put things in perspective for us.  It is so easy to say, yes, I could spare this, that, or the other if I had to, but if you take this exercise seriously, and really try to see yourself in a position of loss, it can really be interesting to determine where your heart truly is.  After this exercise, Matthew 19:24 makes more sense when it states that “…it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Sad but true.  How many people would have chosen wealth, home, spouse, or children as their final item in the above exercise rather than Christ? 

Since S and I have been training to be Money Map coaches, it has truly been heart breaking as we have begun to take more notice of those around us.  All too frequently, we are encountering people who are choosing to not follow God’s will, but rather to put money, nice homes, or high-paying jobs over quality time with family, serving God for lower pay, or sacrificing luxury.  We know of people who will uproot their entire family, leave behind reasonable jobs where they feel called to serve in order to move across the country for a higher-paying job and a nicer lifestyle.  We know of others who will sacrifice their marriage in order to hang on to possessions and material things.  We see teens rebel as they mature because their parents chose money or things over family.   We know pastors whose own children rebel from the Word because their fathers spent all their energy at the church rather than with family.  And it is incredibly heartbreaking! 

Sometimes God calls us to move across the country or world.  Sometimes, He calls to work at a church or serve others.  Sometimes He calls us to do things that don’t make sense.  But God will never contradict His word.  He gives very specific instruction throughout the Bible as to how a husband and father should treat his family, how parents should treat children, how we should handle wealth, and how we should guard against and avoid turning our focus to things other than God.  This can be such a difficult task, and in my experience, I have found that often times we must make drastic sacrifices to keep our guard up.  For example, I know I have a problem with being content.  If I see certain things on TV or in magazines that I believe will make my life easier, then I will be tempted to waste the resources God has given us to go purchase those things.  Together, and for additional reasons, S and I agreed that we would not have public television in our home.  We have a TV currently, but use it for pre-approved videos for the kids or family movie-nights.  I also discontinued my former magazine subscriptions.  Not only does this save us a small fortune, but it also prevents my mind from being tainted by secular “things.” 

In Matthew 19, this is exactly what Christ is cautioning us against.  He wants us to be aware how easy it is to fall into the trap of materialism.  As long as we are guarding ourselves against our weaknesses, keeping our focus on Christ, and we know that we would be OK if we found ourselves in Job’s position of losing all he had, then we can rest confident knowing that Christ has our heart, and our focus is right where it should be.   It is so easy to not be stressed out about our economy when you have this type of faith and confidence.  You just don’t have to worry about what tomorrow holds. Rather, we can enjoy all that God has blessed us with today!

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