By Lorie Newman
Sell all your possessions and give to the poor.
This was the command given to a very rich man in Matthew 19:21. Unfortunately, he went away greatly sorrowful because, as the Bible says, he had great possessions.
Honestly, I have always thought of this rich man as very different from myself. After all, he probably had thousands of heads of cattle, acres and acres of land, hundreds of servants, several houses, and storehouses overflowing with grain. In modern times, I imagine his great wealth to perhaps equal that of Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey. But was that rich man in the Bible really that different from me?
Ive been to parts of the world where the people literally had next to nothing of earthly value. Their homes were dilapidated huts made of sticks and mud. Their only food for the next three days was a pile of rotten vegetables. The only clothes they owned were the tattered and dirty shirts on their backs. Their children longed to attend school but they had no way of paying the childrens school feesthe equivalent of just $100 US dollars.
As I visited the homesteads of these precious people, I was ashamed. I was ashamed at the amount of “things I had back in America. As I entered their huts and walked on their dirt floors, I thought about my heart-of-pine wood floors and my perfectly clean oriental rugs. As they showed me their kitchen which consisted of one black pot over an open fire, I felt heaviness in the pit of my stomach as I thought about my granite counter tops and my Wolfgang Puck cooking set.
As their children napped on a pile of old filthy blankets in the corner of a dark room, I had to hang my head in shame as I thought about my bed at home with its 300 thread-count sheets and fluffy Egyptian cotton pillows. As I watched them bring up drinking water from a contaminated stream near their home, I was brought to tears as I thought about my refrigerator the one that has buttons for my choice of crushed or whole ice cubes. I couldnt help but wonder: Who am I that I have been given so much while they have been given so little? Why is my life so rich while theirs is such poverty?
While my earthly possessions are no match for Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, in the eyes of those poor people I might as well have been some great queen visiting them from a foreign land.
Heres the clincher that God so faithfully reminds me of that brings everything into perspective. No matter what I own of earthly value, it is all flammablehighly flammable. From my refrigerator with the handy ice dispenser to the Wolfgang Puck cookware, and from the Egyptian cotton pillows to the hardwood floors.its all flammable highly flammable.
Gods Word says in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 that one day the Lord will test what weve worked for with fire. Those things that withstand the fire will last forever. Those that dont become smoldering ashes. What a huge bonfire that will be! So as I imagine that day, when everything of earthly value I have will go up in flames, I have to ask myself: Am I really any different from that rich man in Matthew 19 who went away sad because he had such wealth?
Will I be sorrowful when Jesus returns and I watch everything I own turn to ash? Or will I dance around the bonfire of flames, rejoicing because the flames will not hurt the wealth that I have toiled over and spent my life achieving? Will my joy be known to all on that day when the souls Ive led to the Cross, the poor Ive poured my life out for, and the orphans Ive fought to save are all standing there with me as my material possessions go up in flames? Oh God, I pray for the latter!
I do believe God gives wealth as a gift to some people. Look at Abraham, Lot , Job, and even King Solomon! They had wealth beyond measure. But, they knew where their wealth came from and they knew it was all flammable..highly flammable. It was Job (the wealthiest man on the earth who lost everything) who said, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!”
When I contemplate the vastness of poverty in this world, and I look at the enormous blessing of material possessions the Lord has enabled me to enjoy, I dont want to be like the rich man in Matthew 19 who had great sadness at the thought of selling all he had for the poor. I dont ever want to be unwilling to empty my bank account to help the poor, the widow, or the orphan. I dont ever want to hold onto my things so tightly that I forget who gave them to me in the first place. I dont ever want to get to a place where I value my stuff more than the life of another human in need. I dont ever want to forget that my things are flammable. highly flammable.
Is God calling you to sell everything and give to the poor? If He did, could you? If He asked you to, would you? Perhaps we need to begin looking at our possessions through a different lensa lens that reminds us to be cautious about where our money goes. A lens that says, CAUTION: HIGHLY FLAMMABLE!
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Lorie is a busy homeschooling mother of six children, including twins and two children who were internationally adopted one from Haiti and one from Liberia. She has taught and ministered in Bible Studies for over ten years. She and her husband Duane are founders of Reaching Hands Orphan/Adoption Ministries. Through a partnership with Childrens HopeChest, Reaching Hands Ministries enables nearly 300 impoverished African orphans to receive regular food, clothing, and education. You can visit her website at lorienewman.com.