“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:32-34)
I begin today with one of the least quoted and least remembered directives Jesus ever gave His disciples – “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” (Luke 12:32).
This command should not be confused with the far better remembered (and identical) command Jesus gave to a man known only as the ‘rich young ruler’, recorded six chapters later in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 18:18-23).
I’ve heard a number of sermons on the ‘rich young ruler’ passage, most of which try to explain why this command – that possessions must be sold, and the money given to the poor – was a very specific command given to this particular young man because he had become obsessed with his possessions. Well … Jesus gave the same command to all his disciples six chapters earlier.
It is understandable that words like these put us on the defensive. We live in a society that worships the accumulation of wealth. The very idea that we should divest ourselves of everything that our lives had hitherto been directed towards obtaining, seems like an act of cultural betrayal. It also seems impracticable, dangerous, and puerile. Let’s keep in mind though how this command is framed.
Jesus begins with ‘do not be afraid’, which makes sense when He’s asking us to jettison all our earthly securities. Moreover though, it’s “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” The exhortation to let go of our earthly securities is given in the context of the promise of the far greater gift that we are being given. The new age of love and justice is ours. This is wealth that lasts, and the only place where we will find true security.
The closing words of Jesus resonate with me even more – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:34)
Let these words sink in a bit…
We always think that it’s what you say that indicates where your heart is. We think that we can tell a sincerely religious person by their pious words or by their knowledge of the Scriptures or by the eloquence of their prayers. Jesus here gives us a far simpler test when it comes to seeing where someone’s heart is. What does their bank account tell you?
This is the simplest way to tell what your own life priorities are, even before you think about judging anybody else. Take a look at your tax return. What are you spending your money on? What have you invested in? Where is your treasure? For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!
Vale, brother Ron
It was with great sadness that I heard that Ron Sider died last week. Ron was an American Mennonite Christian, best known for his 1978 book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”.
That book had a profound influence on my life. In 1981 I was struggling with the terrible reality of global poverty and the church’s lack of response. Of course, we had church-based charities (which I was involved in) but, on the whole, my church – the Anglican church of Sydney – was far more concerned with saving souls, to the point where starvation and poverty were only seen as minor issues. I was at the point of abandoning the Bible-believing end of the church for something more wholistic. It was Ron who showed me that I didn’t need to make that choice.
Ron Sider combined a sincere love of the Christian Scriptures with a passionate commitment to ending poverty and injustice. His book changed my life, and when he came to Australia in the early 80’s, I followed him everywhere, soaking up his wisdom. I also made sure he signed my copy of his book. I still have it, with the words, “Serve the Lord. Serve the People” scrawled in Ron’s handwriting above his signature.
It’s been 20 years now since I last saw Ron, but he has remained one of the most influential men in my life, along with my father, Soren Kierkegaard, and Robert E. Lee. Thankfully, I still have a few mentors left this side of the Kingdom (thank you, Ray, Terry and David). We all need men and women who can play this role for us – inspiring us, sharing their wisdom with us, and supporting us in our callings. I give thanks for the life of Ron Sider. Vale, brother.
The Sunday Eucharist
It was great to have my dear brother, Doug Pyeatt, join me for the Bible Banter at last Sunday’s Eucharist. You’ll find the highlights below. This Sunday I expect to be back at Binacrombi, providing that flood waters don’t keep me out again.
I am still planning a bush training camp for the following weekend (August 12 to 14). If you’re within striking distance of Binacrombi, let me know ASAP if you can come and I’ll make sure we have a cabin for you.
- Join us on Sunday at noon for our Bush Eucharist through either:
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Your brother in the Good Fight,