Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
– Matt 19.21
The cost of discipleship is steep. But yet, salvation is a free gift. There is an apparent paradox exemplified in the reality that “it is by faith you have been saved, through grace and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works so that no man may boast”, and “if anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Eph 2.8-9, Luke 9.23).
While it is true that God gives freely His salvation unto all who call upon His name, it is understood then that the calling upon His name is in complete and utter surrender and sacrifice.
Jesus, as fully God, had insight into the hearts of people who would question Him. He called the twelve disciples. He went to them and chose them before they even knew who He was, and called them by name. And they left everything and followed Him! Then throughout His earthly ministry, others came wanting to follow Jesus, but were unwilling to lay down their lives fully. A scribe (religious leader of the day) told Jesus he would follow Him wherever He went, but yet turned away because to follow Jesus meant he would have no home; “no place to lay his head” (Matt 8.20). Another man wanted to follow Jesus after burying his father and receiving his inheritance, yet Jesus said that the one who loves father and mother or son and daughter more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matt 10.37).
And then there is the story of the rich, young ruler. He had kept the points of forbiddance of the Law, but devoid of the spirit of the Law:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
– Deut 6.5
Jesus exposed his heart in the command to sell everything that he owned, give it to the poor and come after Him. Jesus is not making the blanket statement that all who desire to be saved must sell every possession they own, but He is making the heart matter clear that the one who is unwilling to do so has not fully surrendered to God, and therefore is not saved.
Rarely do we see people literally do this. Even missionaries do not do this, on the whole. Most of them sell all of their belongings in the states, collect the revenue from the sales and then re-buy everything once they get to their place of service. It is not super-spiritual to buy things locally in a host country.
Jesus is also not saying that all believers must own nothing. But Jesus is saying that if there is anything which we are unwilling to give up, we have a god other than Him. Something is more important to us than Him. And this can be a material possession, it can be family, it can be a sin or a hobby. And it is because of the severity of this statement that the disciples were led to ask:
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?”
– Matt 19.25
And Jesus very simply responded:
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
– Matt 19.26
It is impossible for us to generate a true and full surrender of our lives to God in love and unto salvation. Only God can work that in our lives.
I have moved a lot during my lifetime. In fact, since I was 18 years old, I have not been in the same house/apartment for more than 3 years. Much of that was natural transitioning between college, grad school and work, but it also included a move halfway around the world. Leading up to the age of 26, I knew I was headed overseas, so for the entirety of my independent life pre-moving, I did not collect many material possessions. I minimally decorated my apartments, kept a cheap car, and saved most of the money that I made. (Well, what was leftover after paying for school!) Why? Because I knew I could not take things with me, and it was worthless to buy fancy furniture that I was going to turn around and sell in a year or two. This was not a spiritual discipline, it was simple economics.
Much in the same way, Jesus wants us to maintain an eternal perspective. When we get to the judgment seat of Christ, He is going to require of us an account of how we used the blessings He bestowed upon us. How did we use His money? How did we use His house? How did we treat His children? And did we cling to any possession, person or sin so much that we were crushed or devastated at its loss? Or did we so value something that we were unwilling to give it up to follow Christ? Jesus says it is impossible for us to do this on our own. But God will do it in and through us, working His will in us unto salvation, if we call upon His name and ask Him for the free gift of salvation.
What do you love?
“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
– Matt 6.20