The rich young ruler ran up to Jesus and asked him how he could get eternal life. Jesus told him first that he needed to keep the commandments God gave Moses. Being the good, young Jewish man he was he replied that of course he’d kept them since he was a boy.
Mark said that Jesus looked hard at him…and loved him. He looked hard at him…and loved him.
Have you asked the same question…and had Jesus look hard at you? Have you heard him tell you to keep the commandments and then knowing what’s in your heart instruct you to let it all go? Have you heard him tell you to have a garage sale? Have you heard him speak to you about giving the proceeds to the homeless shelter?
Have you heard his word to you… and felt it cut through your spirit and soul? Have you known or realized that nothing is hidden from God? Everything is exposed. He is the one we’re all accountable to.
So, why do we find it almost impossible to let go of our “stuff?” All of us, I believe, have things we just can’t give up. It may be physical things or it may be habits we feel we need just to get through the day. We all have them. And just like Jesus told the young man he’s telling us we need to let them go.
Why do you think we can’t let go of our stuff? God knows our hearts and souls. We know that…but even with that we can’t let go. Why?
If we believe, if we trust in God, if we believe his Word, then why can’t we take that one step and release our hold on the “stuff” in our lives?
Have you ever thought, “Why doesn’t He just take it all away?” Friends, maybe he does…sometimes. Look at Job. He lost everything but his life and his wife.
He couldn’t understand why. He questioned God. He adamantly requested an audience with Him. His friends came and sat with him and counseled and questioned and kind of told him it must have been something he did that God didn’t like.
They would never have believed that God would allow something like this to take place just as a test or proof of how good someone was.
Deep down Job still trusted in God and his love. God’s Spirit was cutting away all that “stuff” until his word could be felt by Job’s spirit and soul.
Do you suppose God does that to people today? Do you think he tests us today?
Think about this… do you we hold on tight to our “stuff?” Do you think our “stuff” gets in the way of our relationship with God, with Jesus, with the Spirit? Does our “stuff” keep us from truly knowing the kingdom of God?
If our “stuff” is keeping us from what God would have us experience, and I believe it does, then what should we do? Jesus told the young man to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor.
I think all of us should take an inventory of our “stuff.” We should go home or sit here and think about what we can’t let go of and then ask ourselves why it has such a hold on us; why we believe it’s necessary for existence.
Just so you don’t think you’re alone in this let me tell you I have “stuff.” “Stuff” I find it almost impossible to let go of. Does it keep me from knowing the triune God? It probably does. So, what am I doing?
I talk with God…a lot. I think about the “stuff” I hold onto, that holds onto me, and I consider letting it go. And then I pray some more, and read the Word, and just sit and wait on God.
At some point we have to release our hold on the “stuff” that keeps us from experiencing the joy of being continually in God’s presence.
Friends, He understands our weaknesses. He’s there for us but it’s our decision to make. It’s up to us to leave our bag of “stuff” at the cross and then lean on Him.
You know maybe our religious sisters and brothers like Henri Nouwen and Mother Teresa had the right idea. They joined the religious order and trusted in God to provide for their basic needs. And then they went into God’s creation to serve the helpless and the poor. And neither of them lacked anything…and they contributed to our society by serving with love and honesty and openness. Yes, they too struggled with “stuff” but they also trusted and hoped in God.
Along with Jesus and Job and all the prophets and the Apostles they help us understand how good our God is. They demonstrate to us that it can be done. There are others too, young folks who live in communes, holding everything in common. They are trying to live as the disciples did, as Paul, Barnabas, and Silas did and focus on doing God’s work without the hindrance of any “stuff.” Still, they struggle with getting it right.
There is life and happiness and contentment and joy without “stuff.” And there is that promise of eternal life.
Part of the problem could be is that we try to do all this by our own willpower. What did Jesus tell his disciples? He said there’s “no chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance if you let God do it.” Maybe that’s what’s holding us back. We’re trying to do all by ourselves and therefore we’re failing.
So, friends, how are we going to proceed this week? Know that whatever we let go of this week God is right beside us as we go through withdrawal from our “stuff.” He is all we need and his yoke isn’t heavy. Put your trust in him.Thanks be to God for his loving grace. Amen.