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Sunday, March 28, 2010

What? Sell all my stuff?

"When Jesus heard this, he said to him, 'You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." -- Luke 18:22

What did Jesus really mean when He spoke these words to the rich, young ruler? And I wonder what this guy was thinking... "seriously dude, go sell all this fine stuff?" How do we apply this story to our own lives? Does Jesus intend this to be a command for all his followers? Are we all called to go and sell everything we have and give to the poor?

There are a number of places in the new testament where we see followers of Jesus who own personal property... Mary, Martha and Lazarus owned a home, some of the disciples had fishing boats and when Zacchaeus jumped out of the tree, just before he wrote the song about the wee little man, he announced "Lord, here and now I give HALF (not all) of my possessions to the poor." So no... the command given to the rich, young ruler doesn't appear to be a universal command for all of Christ's followers. The question is, what does that command mean for you?

One of the first things Shelly and I did when we began this journey was to spend some serious prayer time with the Lord on this topic. We put everything on the table -- our home, our cars (you see how that one turned out), our investments, the money for our children's school and all our possessions. The Lord responded by opening our eyes to a few initial changes we could make. As we continue to pray and seek His will on this, He shows us more and more. We realize that the more we let go of, the more money we're able to free up, the more possessions we're able to sell, the more we can give away -- and that is really the whole point of this blog.

Here's one example... we've realized that we need to have a serious yard sale. The proceeds will go to one of the ministries we've been supporting. This is a very literal way to sell possessions and give to the poor. We have tons of unnecessary stuff just sitting around our house and in our garage -- some of it quite valuable that would likely do well at a yard sale. One item we are completely overrun with is children's clothing. "Wait!" you say! Can't you just donate the clothing to Goodwill or a family in need? Well yes, and we do that sometimes and certainly if we're aware of a specific need through a charity we support. But listen to what Richard Stearns, President of World Vision, says about this type of donation...
"While providing things like these in urgent situations is sometimes necessary, it neither addresses the underlying stubbornness of poverty, nor is it sustainable, it just creates a dependency. Frankly, giving things to the poor does much more to make the giver feel good than it does to fundamentally address and improve the condition of those in need."
Shelly and I are inclined to agree. Yes it's much easier to get rid of a stack of clothing by just dropping it off at Goodwill -- but we could probably do a lot more good by taking the time to sort, clean, price and sell the clothing and then give the money away.

So that's one example but admittedly, even if it does take a lot of time and effort, it's not much of a sacrifice to hold a yard sale and get rid of a bunch of junk you don't want anyways. What about the other side of that coin -- selling the possessions that you really DO want and then giving that money to the poor?

For the most part, as we have looked around our house we have determined that it would be more trouble than it's worth for the majority of our stuff. Should we sell the green couch that appears to have been slept on by a pack of dogs we let in from the rain? Probably not going to bring in the kind of coin that will make a difference. And then what do you do with the spot where the couch used to be? That's right Americans, fill that void with something better.

Here's a better example... jewelry, especially Tiffany Jewelry. My wife loves her jewelry. Not that she has all that much, but what she does have she loves. Although, in reality, she has a couple of items she wears regularly and the remainder is laid to rest in a box on the dresser. But it's nice to know it's there. The real question is, back to our first post, is it a Necessity or a Luxury? Is it something we as a family need or that by selling it, could bring in enough money to provide for a family that is truly in need.

For you ladies out there reading this and thinking, "I can't believe this man is making his wife sell her jewelry." That one was her idea.


Anonymous said...

Y'all are in a holy place. It is convicting to read about your journey and what God is showing you. x avl