If we were to take this passage literally, how might we apply this?
This is a perfect passage for being rich toward God and being poor toward the world.
First, we have to create space in our lives to consider a passage like this. We are so busy. And we get into the habit of quickly skimming through the Bible.
Often, we treat the Bible like it’s a magazine. We all have biases which draws us to certain types of magazines. While I was young, I was drawn to body building magazines. After I started working in IT, I was drawn to computer magazines. Now I am drawn to entrepreneur and business magazines.
And even after you pick your favorite genre of magazine, you still bring your own biases to that magazine. That’s why you skim through it and you pay attention to the things that are interesting or relevant to you. Very rarely will you read every word of every article. Some graphics and some bold faced quotes here and there catch our attention so you read those parts. You only pay attention to things that grab your attention and we gloss over the articles and ads that are uninteresting or irrelevant.
We can’t treat the Bible like a magazine.
We have to put aside our biases. We can’t pick and choose what passages we think are relevant for us. That’s what religious people do — they accept the things they are good at and ignore the things that are too difficult or make them uncomfortable. And if you do this enough times and if you cut out the verses that don’t apply repeatedly, then we can’t even say after a while that what we believe is the God of the Bible.
Bible works the other way around. The Bible is truth, God speaks truth into our lives and we adjust to the truth. Truth impinges on us. There are inherent demands that truth makes on us. The truth that of gravity means that I shouldn’t step off the roof of a building. I might disagree with that truth, but I’d be dead wrong. Truth always wins.
And every time we read Scripture or listen to a sermon, we need to come with a heart of expectation that God will speak to me personally. I hope you don’t treat a Bible Study like a lecture where you learn wisdom and pick up helpful tips or morals to live by.
Isaiah 55:11 — the “word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
God word will always accomplish something. It will either take root in our hearts and bear fruit as God intended OR it will cause us to harden our hearts because we don’t want the truth there to change us.
God can speak to us at any time. One word from him can transform us in an instant. Do you believe this? One passage from Romans transformed Martin Luther’s understanding of the gospel and out of this, the Protestant Reformation was born.
So does that mean that you quit your school?
Well, I grew up in the church and I would hear a sermon about a passage like this and I’d look at the pastor and my eyes would just glaze over and I didn’t hear anything. Because I didn’t see the relevance for me.
And then, I was born again as a college sophomore and every message during those early years, I felt like God was shouting at me. I hung on every word from Scripture.
And as a soph/junior in college, I would read a passage like this and my heart would burn. And I was literally ready to quit school on go on missions if God called me.
Of course, that would be irresponsible, but that was my heart. That was when I was 19 years old. Now, I am 21, a couple of years older and now God is telling me, remember that commitment that you made to me as a college student? That was an IOU, now it’s time to pay up.
I made a commitment back then that even if I were poor and I had nothing in terms of the world, if I had Jesus and I am obeying God’s will, then I’d be content. Now it’s time for me to pay up.
So when you read a passage like this, you might not able to drop everything right away, but at least in our heart, you should be like — this is it, this is truth. And you believe it with all your heart. That’s your way of giving God an IOU. You owe him one. It’s your commitment that you’ll pay him later.
This is Lordship. Saying God, you are the Lord of my life and I’ll follow wherever you lead me. This might not happen for a while, but one day, maybe even decades later, you might be a famous professor, but God may ask you to lay down your career to make yourself available to serve people.
For the Christians, this is going to be challenging but I want you to treat your future vocation as a branch and you are a bird perched on that branch. If God calls you to leave your vocation or to make a dramatic change in direction, then like that bird, you can quickly fly away and follow God. Because you are not tightly gripping your career. You are resting on the branch lightly, you are holding onto your career lightly. You are admitting life is not about amassing wealth or building up my reputation or status in society. So if God calls, you can easily lay down whatever you are holding onto.