In my recent book, The Secret of Generosity, I take a whole chapter to tackle the difficult question that faces every Christian that takes God’s word seriously: Should we give it all away?
It’s a tough question, and one that merits consideration from anyone seriously considering the call of Christ. After all, Jesus plainly told the rich young ruler:
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21, NIV)
Then, on another occasion, He used an analogy to explain that a person who builds a tower will first calculate the cost, and a king who goes to war will first consider his chances for victory. Jesus then wraps up the discussion by stating: “In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” (Luke 14:33, NIV) Jesus did anything but make it easy for His followers to hold tightly onto money and possessions.
Any way you look at it, these are tough verses to ponder. (If you want hear my complete answer to these questions, you’ll have to pick up a copy of my book!) However, while mulling over the challenge that Jesus’ blatant and bold statments present, and wrestling with just why Jesus would say something so bold, I had a profound thought hit me just the other day…what if He didn’t?
When we ask ourselves “why” Jesus spoke so boldly in this area, we should stop and take a moment to think about if He didn’t. What if Jesus simply said, “Give what works for your budget”, or “Remember the poor every now and again”? Certainly, we could all set our Bibles down a lot easier after a verse like that. If would definitely be more comfortable and convienent. But, there is no tension there, no spiritual discomfort, and no pressing against our sinful selfish nature. We would simply be free to give what works for our budget, and move on with life as we know it (reaping no growth, no maturity, and no spiritual transformation).
Take holiness for example. Jesus said, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48, NASB). That pushes pretty hard against our sinfulness (to say the least!!). And again, what if He said, “Be as holy as you can reasonable be”, or “Give holiness a good effort”. Would it have the same effect? Would it stir all sorts of convictions in our hearts to strive towards holiness if He described it in such a manner? I don’t think so.
This leaves me with an interesting thought: Perhaps Jesus spoke so radically for two reasons. One, it casts us all back wholeheartedly upon His amazing grace. Secondly, it forces us to realize that biblical generosity is something we will never have figured out, finished, and checked off our list. We will pursue its high calling ever deeper as we mature. In a sense, Jesus spoke of money, possession, and generosity in a way that challenges all of us, stretches all of us, and pulls us closer and closer to heaven all the way until the day we find ourselves in heaven itself.