What Will You Sacrifice?

Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. ‘When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Matthew 19:21-22

I read two devotionals each morning and recently, both of them had to do with sacrifice.  In the quote above, a young man asks Jesus what more he should do in order to inherit eternal life.  He claims to have kept all the laws and commandments of the Jewish faith.  As you see, Jesus then challenges him to make a great sacrifice, to give up his particular worldly “idol” and he is unable to do it.

The second devotion dealt with the plight of persecuted Christians.  In many countries around the world, Christians expect to be imprisoned for sharing their faith.  However, it doesn’t deter them.  They realize the importance of spreading the gospel of Christ, and even when it costs them their livelihood or their freedom they don’t stop.

In our country, we are not persecuted (at least in any severe way) and perhaps because of that, we have lost any sense of urgency in evangelizing others.  After all, Bibles are available and often free, the churches are open, the information is available to anyone who seeks.  We don’t really need to go out and tell them. Do we?

I have to wonder,  would I be willing to give up my job, my savings account, my family, my freedom for the sake of Christ?  If Jesus Himself asked me to sacrifice the things I am most attached to, would I obey?  Or would I be like the rich young man who couldn’t part with the things of this world?  Looking at the two examples above, one positive and one negative, I’m asking myself today, which one am I?  Which one are you?

The True Blessing

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Matthew 6:19-21

Most of us in the United States grow up looking forward to achieving “the American Dream.”  That means all manner of material blessings:  a nice car, a beautiful home, a stylish wardrobe, exciting vacations and more.  All those things are blessings, although we would do well to remember that they come from God, not as a result of our own merit.  The big problem is, they don’t last.  I love to go to thrift stores and it’s amazing to see all the things, some very nice things that end up there.  I imagine many of them are collections and treasured belongings that were once important, but are no longer;  the person who owned them has died, moved on to another interest or hobby, or possibly had to “downsize” and couldn’t afford to keep them.  So the question is, why invest our time in acquiring all these “things” in the first place?  Why not spend our time and money on treasure that is real and permanent?

I’m no different.  I spent a lot of my life acquiring things that I’ve now lost, things that wore out, became outdated, or that I had to sell or replace.  In retirement I look back and see that many of them weren’t as important as I imagined.  So what is?  Relationships, for one– our relationships with our parents, children, friends, and most of all God.  The Bible teaches:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul and with all your mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

and

“Love never ends.  1 Corinthians 13:8

In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the rich young ruler is told that loving God and his fellow man is the way to eternal life with God.  That’s the true blessing and the only treasure that lasts.

Count It All Garbage

We all know we’re to put God first.  If we’re honest, we also know how impossibly hard it is to do this.  Maybe we delude ourselves into thinking we’re putting God first if we are in church every Sunday and any other time there is a service.  Maybe we tell ourselves we’re putting God first if we tithe.  We may think having a quiet time of devotion or praying for a set amount of time each day qualifies us.  In actuality although all of these things are good and laudable and all of them lead us further in the process of sanctification, none of them are good enough.

Here’s a brief account of the standard God actually sets for putting Him and His kingdom first:

…the kingdom of God is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”  Matthew 12:45-46

Is God and his kingdom worth more to you than everything else you own?  Would you sacrifice everything, including your life for it?  The Apostle Paul says he would:

Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.”  Philippians 3:8

Paul did not always measure up to his own expectations, because he also says, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  Romans 7:15  In all his human failures, Paul is still a better person than I am.  At least he really wanted to surrender everything.  Knowing how tightly I cling to the things of this world, I fear I would behave more like the rich young ruler in the book of Mark.  Remember what Jesus said to him when he asked what he had to do to gain eternal life?

“Jesus looking at him, loved him and said to him, ‘You lack one thing:  go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven:  and come, follow me.”  Mark 10:21

This young man went away sorrowfully because he couldn’t make that sacrifice.  He had great wealth which stood between him and making a complete commitment to Jesus.  Where is the gospel in this story?  Check out the very first sentence:  “Jesus …loved him.”  Jesus knows that none of us, even the most devoted can make the grade.  He had to do it for us, and He did it because He loves us.  As He tells the disciples in the same chapter,

“With man it is impossible;  but not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:27

So consider what you are called to sacrifice for the kingdom and then do it.  It may be uncomfortable.  It may be IMPOSSIBLE.  You will probably fall short.  But remember, even when you fail, Jesus still loves you and so do I.

Let us know what you are trying to sacrifice for the kingdom of God.