a little and a lot

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"i want the things you just can't give me"

okay, i have blogged and posted comments about this song now and it is STILL stuck in my head and heart: "rich young ruler" by derek webb.

i have this very paul-in-the-letter-to-the-romans battle inside myself. lately i have been so convicted of my luxury and comfort in my own personal life. don't get me wrong...we are not high rolling! but in many ways, we are. (my husband gets afraid when i start talking about how rich we are, because he fears i will use it as an excuse to spend more money! "it's okay honey, we can afford it...we're rich!") what i mean to say is, we have enough money for me to get an expensive haircut & highlights, for the occasional treat at tcby or chik-fil-a (ohmygosh have you had their shakes? they are AMAZING...), for subscriptions to espn magazine or a new skirt from jcrew, for lavendar/vanilla scented laundry detergent, for a huge pack of g2-07's/05's from sam's (my writing utensil of choice), for tickets to auburn football games, cable internet, gasoline for our cars...

okay, so you are getting my point.

compare this to the night commuting children in uganda that must leave their villages every night and seek refuge so they are not kidnapped and forced to work as soldiers in the current civil war. compare this to the people of darfur, who live in fear for their lives daily of the genocide of their people, as they try to survive in refuge camps that humanitarian groups have been forced to abandon because of the overhead bombings taking place. compare this to people in our own country, in own cities...the latent poor who live just above the poverty level, making minimum wage at their various jobs and trying to keep their heads above water while their children go hungry, unsupervised, and unable to receive a quality education.

this hurts my head.

and yet even as i am overwhelmed by these concepts, i drive down shady grove on my way back from shelby farms regularly and admire the huge extravagant houses and wonder what it would be like to live a huge extravagant lifestyle. i wish for it even.

and i wish for...a video ipod, an apple ibook, cable television, a bigger house, nicer furniture, clothes from [enter my favorite expensive stores here], high def on our tv, various books that i drool over at davis kidd, luxurious spa services, expensive dinners on dates, trips to europe or the beach or new york city or on a cruise and a private jet to fly me to all these places...

For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. (romans 7:17-20, the message)

so what must we do
here in the west we want to follow you
we speak the language and we keep all the rules
even a few we made up
come on and follow me
but sell your house, sell your suv
sell your stocks, sell your security
and give it to the poor
what is this, hey what’s the deal
i don’t sleep around and i don’t steal
i want the things you just can’t give me
(excerpt from "rich young ruler")

16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

17"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

18"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,'[d] and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'[e]"

20"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

what does this mean for my life? how can i live this challenging message? how can i choose daily to give up my american luxuries for the sake of valuing "the least of these." for the sake of valuing, in essence, jesus. my heart wrenches thinking about this.

i feel that i am at a critical turning point in my life. one in which i start taking action to give voiceless people a voice. one in which i will start giving the Lord the things that are tough for me to give.

what about you?


Tesney said...

Thanks for posting this! I'm so with you...I often find myself wishing for a big, professionally deocrated house, the trendiest clothes, and unlimited funds for my fav hobby--landscaping...at the same time I'm ungrateful for all the blessings we have. Greg is much better than me and challenges me in our giving...and we're always blessed way more than we give. Thanks for the reminder and challenge!

Shannon said...

I'm struggling with a lot of the same questions and it makes my head hurt, too. in some ways i feel stuck in this culture of materialism and expectations of how things should be and on the other hand i know i love it and want all it has to offer... definitely a struggle. don't you just hate it when someone like derek webb... or jesus:)... just kicks you in the butt with something and you know you can't ignore it anymore?

Anonymous said...

Jess, this is also something I wrestle with. All the furniture posts were a product of this fight in my head along with other aspects of discontent with our financial situation. But you are so right we are all so rich! I felt like all the pro new furniture comments were all folks justifying their own wants. (Please don't take offense folks who were pro furniture, I understand the battle and can totally relate to the justifying) I don't think that this is the exact direction that you were going on but this is how your post speaks to me. I am a selfish and so vain. I am not sure if denying your self luxuries (my new couch)is the way to value Jesus or is it? Any thoughts on how we, as a blogging community, can challenge and encourage this type of living and thinking? Do we have to physically give up these things to live a life of total dependece and faithfulness to the cross. Oh Jesse these are hard questions and my head is now aching. Let me think more and I will check back to see where all of this goes with everybody else.

Kelly "not a beta blogger" Hovater

Anonymous said...

I cannot tell you how refreshing it is to see this. I want to seek God in all the things I do but this is always a struggle for me. I think it is a struggle for all of us. I needed this reminder especially, because we are currently househunting and I was just pouting over affording one, etc. How trivial it all is! Yet how important it can seem, also, when we get our heads and hearts in the wrong places. I am at a constant battle with myself and my own desires vs. God's desires. Wow. thanks.


Anonymous said...

oh and ps. in response to Kelly's comment, I dont think there is anything wrong with having. Or wanting. Really. Its your attitude about it. Just like the Rich young Ruler's. I think obsessing is another thing. to put it simply, It's what Jesus was getting at. Don't put it before him. And give wholeheartedly back. wholeheartedly. I think we all should look into our own lives and examine this.

Kyle Smith said...

This issue along with the issue of pacifism has been weighing on my soul lately. I think your post here is very well stated.

I find it difficult where to draw the line on American Consumerism today. Sure God doesn't mind if I have a comfortable home...but let's not get caught up in a 'Your Best Life Now' mentality. God, and Jesus (same guy), was and is concerned with our treatment of the poor.

I love that line in the song "We moved out of Jesus' neighborhood, where he's sick and not feeling so good..." I think the American Christian idea has been to get comfortable first, and then give money to the few who stayed behind to do the work. I am not totally innocent in this.

I am the biggest hypocrite of all. I believe that I should not own most of what I do, and yet on a daily basis I enjoy my comforable house, my cars (though both are very used), my Apple laptop (and I can rationalize that one very well). I have no answers, merely musings.

Adopting Rhet: Click on the timeline above to read more