We started watching Into the Wild tonight. It really has some amazing imagery about forsaking all in pursuit of freedom. My favorite part was when he burns his cash. There’s something in me that objected. All kinds of “but…” thoughts came to mind. I saw where he was coming from in wanting to get away from his past life of being shepherded by parents of material plenty and worldly success. But still, did he need to burn the cash? Even if he didn’t spend it, it’s nice to have as a backup or in an emergency.
But you see, money is really just a tool. Like a hammer, it can be used to do things. Many uses of this tool are good. I don’t need to enumerate those here. But tools also have the potential to hurt us. A rope can help fish someone from a raging sea, and it can also be constructed as a noose to hang oneself. I remember the damage tools can bring most clearly growing up, when my dad, in an effort to cut some cardboard, sliced right through it with his razor knife, but also sliced into his thigh. My dad’s case was due to carelessness, and was easily preventable in the future. But some tools aren’t so easy to use properly. In these cases, I think we need to ask ourselves how long we’re going to let the tool sink us before we finally let it go and live without it.
Kara and I do some good things with money, but earning it, managing it, and using it sure does take a lot out of us. I’m reminded of Jesus’ invitation to “sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys” (Luke 12:33). Jesus also gives similar advice to a rich man in Matthew 19. I have heard sermons on Matthew 19 before. Usually the preacher extracts some “good lessons” from the story, but they conveniently don’t include selling our possessions. The closest or she might get is encouraging us to be willing to sell if asked. But Jesus’ words in Luke were directed to all his disciples. It’s not as easy to slip away from. If someone is really trying to follow Christ, why wouldn’t they think these words apply to them? I know when I hear Jesus’ words, I instantly start to make some of the same “but…” objections like I did when watching the money go up in flames: “but what about looking after my family… but what if I share my possessions… but what about not being a burden on others… but how will I be able to make an impact in our culture… but what about having fun…”
It’s incredibly hard to be in our culture and not have stuff. Maybe it’s just the amount of stuff that’s the problem. Maybe it’s the fact that so much of it goes unused. Maybe if there was more owned by the community I would feel better? Jesus words trouble me, but even more troubling is that I don’t know how and if I can apply them in my context.