The Point of It All (Last RiWM post)
I recognize that sharing all of these heavy, serious posts might make you think that I’ve gone off the deep end, or been completely brainwashed by the reading of one book. I imagine I’m feeling something like Amy Carmichael did when she wrote her book, If. She writes this disclaimer in the introduction,
“…And then sentence by sentence the “Ifs” came, almost as if spoken aloud in the inward ear….And in case any true follower be troubled by the “then I know nothing,” I would say, the thought came in this form and I fear to weaken it….”
Please know, I’m not comparing myself to Amy Carmichael in ANY WAY, other than to say this is precisely how I feel. I recognize that many people who love Jesus very sincerely may be uncomfortable with these RiWM posts. But the truths therein are things that the Lord has been working in my heart, not only in recent weeks, but since February of 2009. And since the thought came to me in this form, I fear to weaken it.
“There is no doubt that the possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life. Because it is so natural, it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is. But its outworking is tragic. This ancient curse will not go out painlessly. The tough old miser within us will not lie down and die obedient to our command. He must be torn out, torn out of our hearts like a plant from the soil; he must be extracted in blood and agony like a tooth from the jaw. He must be expelled from our souls in violence as Christ expelled the money changers from the temple.” [A.W. Tozer]
Tozers’ insight here helped me to put to rest the cognitive dissonance I’d experienced so long when I thought on materialism.
I know so many Christians whom I respect; admire, even. They are good, God-loving people who practice good stewardship. They tithe, they give above and beyond their tithe. They are wise, they spend time in the Word. They practice spiritual disciplines, and they’re GENEROUS. They give of their money freely, without hesitation, to those who ask.
And yet – they still live, not in abundance, but extravagance. With the newest gadgets on their hips and the fanciest food in their bellies.
They say, “Worldliness, materialism – get out! I don’t want you in my life! I belong to Christ!”
But as Tozer observes, materialism will not die obedient to our command. And to be frank, I can count on one hand the number of people I know who are willing to tear it out.
So the challenge to myself, is to tear it out. To make war with sin. To expel materialism and selfishness and waste and worldliness from my soul with violence. Practically, this is what it looks like for now:
I will give away something that I like. Something that isn’t already in my Goodwill pile – something that is not necessarily expendable. Something that I will miss. Not that giving away something I love will do any good for the lost overseas, BUT, it is the beginning of my personal war on materialism. And right now, a thing that I love is birthday presents. As much as I want a pair of TOMS or the first season of Glee on DVD (and believe me I do), I want Christ-likeness more.
And, please understand, if you do not know what it is like to have a personal relationship with Jesus, He IS NOT a cosmic killjoy! He tells us in His Word that He LOVES to give his children good gifts, and that he lavishes us with love. And that there is a time for dancing! And He promises abundance often in the Scriptures! So I’m not trying to say that Jesus wants me to give away everything that makes me happy – because that’s not true.
What is true, is that He’s created in my soul a deep awareness of all the good gifts he has given me, and also a deep love and compassion for people who, because of social, economical, and political factors out of my control – have a very grave need. So it is JOY for me to give up a silly DVD to help meet that need. I’m not just denying myself things – that’s pointless. I’m using the money that would have gone to those things for something much more valuable.
I’m battling materialism not because I don’t want to have fun, again, there’s no sense in that. But because the selfishness in it makes me nauseous, and I want no part of that. Materialism will not die obedient to our command, it must be torn out of our hearts. All my life experience has taught me that this is true. So I’m tearing it out.
John Piper delivered a powerful message about making war with sin:
“… and I see so little war.” That’s what’s missing in the lives of most Christians I know. A willingness to make war with materialism, lust, selfishness, anger – or whatever else.
K.P. Yohannan ends the chapter with this thought.
“Many Western believers are the rich young rulers of our day. Jesus is saying to them, ‘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.’”
K.P ends there – but I think it’s important that we know how the story ends. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
How many of us will walk away from the treasure of a vibrant relationship with Jesus because we aren’t willing to part with whatever it is that we foolishly value above Him?
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” [Matthew 13:45-46]
Jesus is the Pearl of Great Price – and He’s worth it.