What if God said to let go? Would you do it?
Check out this story from Matthew 19:
“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crestfallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
First things first, Jesus wasn’t saying it’s evil to be rich. The rich aren’t excluded from the kingdom of heaven, but those who worship money before God will be (see Exodus 20:3).
Jesus plainly stated that it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye (which, by the way, is impossible) than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. So, while money isn’t evil, it must have major, major, major potential to become a stronghold in human lives.
I understand this part of the story well... because I’ve been there. When I was in my early 20’s, I was earning a near-six-figure salary, and believe it or not, it was one of the most miserable seasons of my life. I was chasing career success, and it wasn’t fulfilling me in return.
I worked all the time. If I wasn’t at work, I was complaining about work. I was spiritually dead. Elizabeth Gilbert’s proclamation in Eat, Pray, Love resonated with me: “I have no pulse!”
Looking back, it’s no surprise that this is when and where I met Jesus—desperate, dead, and in need of resuscitation. I started attending a church, started reading my Bible (like, actually reading it), started learning about what it means to have a relationship with God. Within a year, He told me, “Let go.”
So, after three years of earning lots of money and with a promising future in the corporate world, I did exactly that.
I remember the conversation with my senior vice president well. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay another five years and make some more money before you leave?” I paced through my grandmother’s front yard (ironically, five years ago this Thanksgiving), and told him, “If I stay another five years, I’ll never walk away.”
Now, I’m not saying that high-paying corporate jobs are bad. I truly believe that some people are called to them. But all the signs pointed to the fact that I was not.
I took another job that cut my paycheck in more than half, then, two years later, God called me onto the mission field. To many people, I looked like a crazy person. Why on earth would I do that?
Here’s my answer: for a full life. If I believe that the kingdom of heaven is where the full kind of life resides, then why wouldn’t I let go of all the things I’ve been holding onto in exchange for it?
The story in Matthew 19 goes on to say:
Then Peter chimed in, “We left everything and followed you. What do we get out of it?”
Jesus replied, “Yes, you have followed me. In the re-creation of the world, when the Son of Man will rule gloriously, you who have followed me will also rule, starting with the twelve tribes of Israel. And not only you, but anyone who sacrifices home, family, fields—whatever—because of me will get it all back a hundred times over, not to mention the considerable bonus of eternal life."
Every six to 12 months, God reveals something I’m holding onto with white knuckles. In high school, it was straight A’s and being the cheerleading captain. In college, it was a boyfriend. In my early 20’s, it was career success, wealth, and achievement. In my mid 20’s, it was appearance, beauty, and fitness. In my late 20’s, it’s been theology, reputation, and self-awareness. It’s been pride, anger, self-righteousness, and a slew of other things that turn out to be terrible gods. I don’t even want to know what lies in my future, but if I had to guess, children, marriage, a house, material stuff, and age will be in there somewhere.
Like Israel, we’re hellbent on making idols out of anything, and here’s the thing: every time we refuse to repent and let go, we rob ourselves of the greatest treasure. Who wants the pursuit of happiness when you can have pure, contented, exhilarating joy?
Here’s what I think Jesus was saying in that Matthew 19 passage:
“Be careful, daughter! Money is a subtle god that feels good. It’s hard to give up, as it’s easy to grow accustomed to a comfortable lifestyle—the kind of lifestyle that money can buy you. But it’s fake, and it never fulfills. It provides a false sense of security and safety. It tricks you into thinking you can do it on your own, but you can’t. Haven’t you tried and tried? And here you are, back again, asking, ‘What can I do?’ I tell you, come to Me. It really is that simple.”
What is God calling you to let go of today? Now, only one question remains… Will you do it?