What’s the Point of Giving Away Your Stuff?

But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life
 is being demanded of you.  And the things you have 
prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those
 who store up treasures for themselves but are not 
rich towards God.’ Luke 12: 20-21 NRSV
     Awhile back, Maggie and I made a public commitment to give all of our stuff away except for what will fit in our two cars. We’ve been trying to let go of possessions and simplify our lives for decades. The impending move to Oregon has given us an opportunity to truly step out and do what we’ve dabbled in for years. So, what’s the point? 

     In my meditative readings of scripture, the Spirit has seen fit to repeatedly return me to one message: let go of your stuff and your life of earthly security. This is part of my journey as a follower of Jesus. According to the writer of Mark, the brothers James and John left their father, their hired hands, and their fishing business to follow Jesus (Mark 1:16-20). They did so “immediately.” 

     Likewise, the Spirit has focused my attention upon the writer of Luke’s emphasis on ministry to the outcast, to the poor, to those on the outside. Writes Luke, “None of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (Luke 14:33 NRSV). While I do not prescribe to a literal interpretation of the Bible, the gospels are filled with Jesus talking about wealth and money. When taken as a whole the point is this: wealth is not intrinsically bad but it has a nasty habit of getting in the way to salvation. 

     When James and John heeded Jesus’ call, leaving their fishing business behind, their actions became metaphors for each of us. We are each called to let go of those things (physical, emotional, or spiritual) that prevent us from following the Spirit’s push to do God’s will. In my case, I am discerning a push to do God’s will through new church ministry in Portland. 

     Pragmatically, beginning a new church means financial insecurity. It means that I will not have a paid ministerial position for years. It means that I must fully trust the Spirit to guide me as this vision of a new community of people who follow Jesus develops. I am convinced by the nudges of God in scripture, within creation, and within my own life, that to start a new “church” requires me to give away most of what I own. My stuff must go so that it cannot prevent me from doing God’s will. 

     The developing vision for Embracing (the name for the new church) is one of a “church” that looks nothing like the institutional structures that we associate with “church.”  Embracing God’s vision and collaborating with others, requires me to let go of images of church committees and stone edifices. From this loss of past associations, I am convinced God will create something remarkable.

     Giving away possessions is an act of living into my faith in an abundantly loving God. It requires trusting in God and the unfolding future God holds for us. As we seek to be ready for the next chapter in our lives, I am reminded of a quote from theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen. He said, “You don’t think your way into a new kind of living. You live your way into a new kind of thinking.” I believe God is creating a new kind of thinking as Maggie and I strive to change the way we live. So, what’s the point of giving away most of our possessions? Doing so will enable us to more fully respond to God’s inexplicably extravagant love.

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