– a rather confronting quote from Dorothy Day, a Catholic socialist activist. I came across it in the book “The Irresistible Revolution”, as Shane Claiborne often refers to Day and the amazing life she led.
I haven’t blogged in a while, and as I mentioned with friends earlier this evening – its because I want to be someone who doesn’t just talk about stuff, but actually does it. The world doesn’t need my blog posts or my musings. It needs my actions. That’s if anything is to change, of course.
But, as a disciple of Jesus, I also want to be very sure of the reason I do things. No, I don’t do “good things” to earn God’s approval. And I’m so glad I’ve grown up knowing this. But I can’t help but wonder, what next? What comes after salvation? Surely the Bible doesn’t stop having things to say to me once I’m a Christian?
What does it actually mean to follow Jesus? To take up my cross, deny myself, and follow Him? Being a disciple of Jesus requires me sacrificing every aspect of my life to his Lordship. Could this possibly mean Jesus has something to say about the way I transport myself around? About the amount of clothes I have sprawled across my floor and piled up in my wardrobe? About the food I eat and where it comes from?
This is where Christianity becomes more than hypothetical chit chat, and push comes to shove.
God has been shaking things up in my life, and I gotta say – its not coming easy. Its not comfortable. As I write this post I’ve got a few main texts buzzing around in my head at the moment – Claiborne’s “Irresistible Revolution”, Sleeth’s “Serve God Save the Planet”, Platt’s “Radical”, as well as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5 – 7), and James 5.
While we might label Day’s quote as radical and extremist, you won’t get through much of the gospels without encountering similar sentiments. In Luke 3, John the Baptist tells us that “If we have two tunics, we should share with him who has none”. Jesus has more to say on the subject. He tells us “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth”… “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”, and of course, the infamous convo with the rich young man in Matt 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18 (quickly becoming the most frustrating passages in the Bible at the moment for me !)
I have done nowhere near enough reading or research to talk about at deep Jesus and the rich young man’s interaction. But there are a few things that strike me – namely our reaction to passages like this. We talk ourselves out of it. Our first reactions, as middle (upper, really) class Westerners is extremely defensive. “You need to remember context” “But Jesus didn’t tell everyone to give their stuff away to the poor” “This just means we need to make sure Jesus is more important to us than our stuff… and maybe be prepared to make a few sacrifices along the way”
And yes, its true. We do need to remember context when reading the Bible!!!! As my high school bible study leader Lisa always reminded me, the Old Testament contains some very specific rules about mildew and cleaning mildew out of our houses… that Christians obviously aren’t following today and this is a good and fine thing! And yes, its true, not everyone Jesus interacts with gets told to give away all their stuff.
But why are our first reactions defensive? Why do we try and rationalize what Jesus says? Are we happy settling for the watered down version of Christianity? I like my stuff. And its just awkward that Jesus isn’t so keen on it. And as quickly we can, we talk ourselves out of the passage holding any meaning to our lives, and move onto the next chapter of the Bible that might not be as hard to swallow. Or like the young man, we may walk away sad, because we are people of great wealth.
But, friends – I don’t want to live my life like this anymore. Why? Because Jesus offers better. After instructing the rich young man to sell his possessions and give all he has to the poor — its important to remember what he says next. He says “then you will have treasures in heaven”. Treasures that don’t fade, rust … treasures that no one can steal from us. Oh friends, if only we knew deep down that Jesus isn’t calling us to an impoverished life but the richest life possible – now and forever – freed from our possessions and free to follow Jesus with all of who we are, whatever that may mean.
Read James 5 lately? I read it a few weeks ago and haven’t been able to shake it from my mind. Check it out –
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you.2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.”
Now, I still have a long way to go on the journey of obedience and simplicity – although allow to share with you where I’m currently at. This passage embarrasses me. I have lived my life in luxury and self indulgence. Have any of you worked out your ecological footprint? It would take two worlds to support the world’s population if everyone lived like I did. I’ve taken more than my share, more than what has been given to me.
I also own many possessions that have not been properly paid for – the makers of my sweat shop clothing have gone hungry and been treated inhumanely. Sure, I got it cheap but at what expense? I’ve started to take a few small steps –
This year, I’m not going to buy any clothing unless its fair trade, or second hand. As well as this, for every item of clothing I buy, I will need to give an item away.
Reckon you could join me? Who’s keen to start being a disciple of Jesus and allowing Him to rule over every aspect of our lives? Who’s ready to show the world our faith, by what we do? (James 2)
My head hurts – think thats gonna have to be it for tonight!
Would love to continue the conversation, either through comments or in real life…
(learning to be) simply, rosie.