Luke on My Mind #6
I admit it; actually, I confess it--I find "Sell your possessions and give to the poor" (Luke 12:33) a hard and difficult saying. Probably more than any other saying of Jesus--even "love your enemies"--I'm inclined to throw up my hands and say "I can't do that."
It puts me in the position of the Rich Young Ruler of Luke 18 and that is an very uncomfortable position in which to be. Now, with the Rich Young Ruler I can recontextualize, spiritualize and delegitimize the demand to "sell your possesssions and give to the poor." That was too specific, too tailored to the heart of that Ruler. Or, was it? Well, I can debate that one with myself.
But I can't "debate" Luke 12:33 which appears in the heart of Luke's rehearsal of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount material. It is "don't worry"--ok, hard but I can handle it. It is "seek his kingdom"--yes, Lord, I will do that. It is "don't be afraid"--yes, Lord, I'll trust you. And, then, like a lightning bolt to my heart, it is "Sell your possessions and give to the poor." And my heart stops and says, "uh, can you repeat that? I'm not sure I heard you right."
This is where my heart is, brothers and sisters. I don't want to sell my possessions. In fact, I want better possessions. I'll give mine away so I can upgrade, but not sell my upgrades so I can give to the poor. That does not make sense--at least not in the culture in which I have been trained, socialized and pampered.
So, what am I to do? Should I obey?
Perhaps I will have to start where this whole discussion started in Luke 12. Someone in the crowd asked Jesus to adjudicate between his brother and himself over inheritance. Jesus refused and pointed to their hearts--only they can act on the nature of their hearts. Life, Jesus said, "does not consist in the abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15).
Ok, I know that, but what does it mean. Well, it means that we don't build bigger barns. This is the parable that Jesus told in response to this inquiry about inheritance. What do I do with the blessings God has given me? Do I build bigger barns so I can contain them, hoard them and consume them? Or, and I think this is Jesus real answer, don't build bigger barns. Instead take your increase and give it to the poor.
Perhaps that is my starting place on my journey to obey "sell your possessions and give to the poor." Perhaps I just need to start with the simple resolve to never build any more bigger barns. Perhaps I take my increases and give them to the poor. I can at least start there.
So, if you are troubled as I am by this saying to "sell your possessions and give to the poor," perhaps we start by not building any more "bigger barns." We start with using our increase to bless the poor, and then perhaps we can begin downsizing (selling our possessions) and increasing our giving to the poor. We start by not obtaining more before we start doing with less. I think God will honor that direction, but he will not honor the other option.
One more post on this to come and then I will be finished for a while....my own heart cannot stomach the challenge. (Do you like my mixed metaphor?)