Did Jesus Not Call Us to Give Everything?

An interesting topic came up at the Bible study I attended tonight and challenged a long-standing belief of mine. Though I thought this was a fairly common belief, I was apparently the only one at the Bible study who believed it. For that reason I’ve pondered it quite a bit this evening, and though I don’t necessarily plan on changing my views, I’m wondering what perspectives other people might have.

The passage that sparked the discussion was James 4:13-17:

13Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

Specifically, verse 17 was the verse that sparked the discussion: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Personally, I’ve pretty much always believed that Christ calls us to give up everything we have and give it to the poor, which ultimately means to give it to Him. This then, combined with the above verse, leads to the conclusion that not giving up everything we have is a sin in itself, which I do believe. This is what my Bible study friends seemed to struggle with; they did not believe that it was necessarily a sin to keep any material possessions for themselves. They didn’t necessarily see anything wrong with storing up or consuming more than they truly need. And they seemed to believe that it was possible to be “entirely sanctified” (without sin for a period of time) while still owning more than the bare necessities, and not giving up everything to the poor.

Granted, as humans we do have needs, but God wants us to come to Him for our needs, and tells us that He will provide for us. Matthew 4:1-4 reads:

1Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

4Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”

Jesus’ response does not mean that we should refuse to eat; it simply means that food is not the most important thing in our lives. Instead, God is the most important, and bringing our needs to Him will always ensure that they are met, whatever they are. I believe that we are closest to God when we are self-sacrificing, and I believe that giving everything we have to the poor is likely the best way to remove the distractions that we have in our lives that keep us from spending time with Him. It is obvious that we are closer to God in times of need; why is it so difficult to grasp the concept of God asking us to give everything away to remove our obvious distractions?

I realize that this is a pretty unrealistic requirement, but what does Christ call us to do that isn’t unrealistic by the world’s standards? Christ calls us to be perfect, as He is perfect. In the words of Jesus, Matthew 5:43-48 reads:

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The end of this passage reads “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” If we have any “luxuries” in our life (meaning anything that we don’t truly need or has the potential to distract us from God), I believe we are called to give these away, so that we may strive to be perfect as Christ was perfect. Christ had nothing more than He needed, and calls us to do the same.

So why don’t I get up myself and give away everything I have? Because I lack the faith. Because I’ll never be perfect, like Jesus. Although, the more I think about this topic, the more I want to give away myself, and the less interest I have in any material possessions. I truly believe Jesus has called me to give away everything I have.

So then, here are my questions for you:

  • Do you believe that you would be closer to God if you had less material possessions? Why or why not?
  • Do you believe that Jesus has called you to give away all material possessions?
  • Do you believe that Jesus calls all Christians to give away all material possessions?
  • Do you believe that it is possible to be “entirely sanctified” (without sin) without giving away everything you own?

Feel free to answer any or none of these questions, but I am very interested in your thoughts on the topic. Please let me know in the comments!

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76 Responses to Did Jesus Not Call Us to Give Everything?

  1. Your brother says:

    I’m a blunt person – so here’s a blunt answer:  Your friends are wrong.  While I’m sure their intentions are good, the more material possessions we have the further we remove ourselves from God.  I think what solidifies this the most for me is this: “What is your life?”  That’s one of the most blunt questions I’ve ever read in the bible.  Really, who truly gives a crap about Josh Carr?  There will always be something more important than me to everyone on earth – God is the only exempt factor.  I truly believe that I, you, we are the most important thing(s) to Him.
    It is no more sin to live a life of luxury than it is to want the hot tub your neighbor has.  Sin is sin.  I think your friends are doing what we all do the most – making excuses.  They’re trying to lead a good life, in fact, we all are.  Having money saved up or more material possessions doesn’t “feel” like it’s preventing us from being closer to God, but how could you truly know that unless you’ve been stranded in the desert for 40 days without anything to distract you from God?  I’d tend to believe the teachings of Christ – who has done it – more so than someone who hasn’t.
    So is it obtainable?  I’d say good luck to you, sir.  I know I will never reach that goal – It’s a sin that I cannot (scratch that – “will not”) change – but God’s grace is understanding and forgiving… Your thoughts are correct.  Of course everyone else is entitled to theirs but I think that some people try to justify sin when it really can’t be justified.  I could attempt to fill my head with lies (yours even) by justifying every single sin – but really, that’s telling God to “eff off” and that you don’t need His grace or Jesus’ sacrifice.

  2. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Josh.  I’ve learned that I have a greater tendency than most people to label nearly everything as a sin, simply because it’s not Jesus-perfect.  I still can’t really see it any other way, though.  It sounds like that’s where you come from as well…

  3. Amber Carr says:

    Hmmm, can I stop giving toys and buying things for Reese?…
    NO! :) Just as God enjoys blessing us and gives us gifts.

    I do think that we have a lot of things that are distracting that we really don’t need. Do I think its a sin. Probably. But is it a sin to enjoy a gift someone else has given you? Is it a sin to enjoy the blessings God bestows on us? I don’t think so. I think God delights in seeing us have fun. He enjoys giving us gifts. But if that gift becomes more important to us than the giver and we know the real giver is (God) then we are sinning.

    (Am I making excuses to make it look like I’m not sinning?) No, I know I’m a sinner. I know I have things that I really don’t need. I agree, I should get rid of them, but I keep coming up with reasons why I need them! lol :) Sinner!

  4. Jason Carr says:

    Giving Reese toys and buying things for our baby boy, Amber, is giving, and of course that’s in no way a sin.  Nor do I believe it is a sin to enjoy a gift that God has given to you (all gifts come from God), but often the best way to enjoy a gift is to give it away!  I believe God gives us gifts all the time that he intends for us to give away to others, such as financial blessings.  Unfortunately, I don’t believe we recognize this nearly as often as we should.  Would you agree?

  5. Amber Carr says:

    I think it is important that we don’t waste our money selfishly but that we pray and ask God what he wants us to do with it. I think a good question to ask yourself before you spend money is “Are we using it to benefit God and other people? ” If you go out to eat with people in order to witness to them and develop a relationship with them. I don’t think that’s sinning. If you buy a nice guitar that you can lead worship with and help other people enjoy worship, I don’t think that’s sinning. I think it’s more of an attitude of what you do with what you have or what you get. It’s not ours it’s God’s. When the object becomes “ours” and we are consumed in it, that is when it becomes a sin. I do think it is very easy to get distracted. And we need to continually work at making sure we have a Godly attitude with the things that we have. Is it a tool that you can use to enhance the kingdom of God or is it a toy that will distract you from living a holy Godly life?

  6. Jason Carr says:

    Exactly.  I agree.  But I’m afraid that the vast majority of the “luxuries” that we buy are ours, and not God’s.  Very little of what we spend money on do we truly use for the Lord…

  7. Amber Carr says:

    I know, I didn’t say we weren’t sinning… Most of it for me are things I buy for Reese. (And just a few other things). I think we should have a garage sale and sell everything for free! Or put a price on the bigger things and give that money to the poor. What do you think?  We should go through our stuff and decide what we need to get rid of. And no, we are not getting rid of our dog! (Just so you know)

  8. Jason Carr says:

    Lol…sure…why not.  Assuming we can find the time to go through our stuff…

     

  9. Amber Carr says:

    But… what if by giving away our stuff we’re causing other people to sin???
    ;)

  10. Jason Carr says:

    Interesting point…but I’m sure when Jesus healed people sometimes those people went out and used their newly healed bodies to sin.  It happens.

    Just because people use a gift to sin does not mean that we caused them to sin.  Their sin is between themselves and God, and we are not guilty for their sins.

    Granted, if we know someone has an Internet gambling problem, we probably shouldn’t give them a computer with Internet access…

  11. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    It is encouraging to me that you all really think deeply about what Jesus asked people to do.  When scriptures get bantered about concerning so many contemporary issues, the topics of money, wealth, compassion and distribution are all still extremely relevant to us 2000 years later.
    Jesus was warning people about the pursuit and accumulation of wealth and material goods that superseded relationships with God and those we love, including people we don’t even know and are called to love.  We need to be careful how we think about  how we live and how we give according to the examples set by Jesus.
    You have to think of the cultural and historical context in which Jesus, His words, and His actions are described in the scriptures.  Up to this point, the Hebrews had lived by laws that have been compared to the Sharia traditions of Islam.  This makes sense when considered as part of a larger cultural geographic area.  So what does this mean?  Faithful people were judged by their adherence to the law, with whom they interacted, and how they behaved, according to the letter of the law as opposed to its spirit.   An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.  Jesus came with a very radical message: while being lawful Hebrews and citizens (fulfilling the Talmudic law and even obeying Roman occupation) we are called to have compassion for human beings, no matter if they were Jews, gentiles, Romans or whomever.
    So how does this influence the way contemporary Christians view Jesus’ call to give away everything and follow Him?  How does that work when we need certain essentials just to survive?  In our society, we culturally agree that people should earn a living, live in suitable dwellings, feed and clothe themselves and their families, and give to their church to advance God’s work.  I don’t think this agreement is against what Jesus wants us to do as His followers.  The more encompassing meaning of His message is that we need to share what we have freely with those who need it and do it lovingly.  We should not expect to be rewarded materially for following Christ.
    There is a strange attitude that has pervaded Western Society since the Feudal Era in Europe.  It was believed that if one is a good Christian and followed the Bible, God will bless you materially.  With the rise of the Middle Class after the Northern Renaissance, this attitude further developed into the Puritan Work Ethic that was then imported to the American Colonies.  You can see how this has exceeded what may be thought of as reasonable by Jesus’ teachings through the promulgation of  the “prosperity gospel” or those who have taken the Prayer of Jabez out of context.  I believe Jesus would find it frustrating and incongruous that His people would seek material blessings just because they think they are doing His work!  “See, I am a good Christian, now give me what I want!”
    In my opinion, the accumulation of wealth and pursuit of power at the expense and neglect of others is the real sin.  Remember, Jesus had wealthy friends who underwrote his ministry.  He loved these people and called them to be His disciples. These people came by their wealth in ways that were purposeful and fair to the people around them and was used to do God’s work, feeding the hungry, helping the sick, teaching others about compassion.  Jesus’ reaction to the wealthy man that asked to follow Him was insightful.  In telling the man to divest of his wealth and follow Him, Jesus understood the sway that the material aspects of the man’s life controlled him and separated him from what is important to being human and connected to God.  Is it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven?  Can we live without luxury and do God’s work?
    In keeping with this line of thought, be always mindful of the balance in your lives.  Work to survive, do work that is good, and pursue those things that are good for everyone.  Do not pursue wealth and luxury for yourself at the expense of those you love and others who need our love.  Most of all, do not lose sight of how your riches and resources, be they tangible or intangible, may be used with God’s intent.

  12. Amber Carr says:

    Awesome Karrie!

  13. Jason Carr says:

    Wow…thanks, Karrie.  Well put, and some very good information.  You make a very good point when you say that we shouldn’t expect material blessings when following Jesus; I’ve always wondered where that perspective came from.

    I’m not necessarily convinced, though, that our cultural “requirements” always fit in line with the perfect plan that God has for us.  They may sometimes, but I’m willing to bet that more often than not God’s ideal plan for our lives does not consist of holding a typical job or making sure that we have a roof over our heads.  It’s not that God wouldn’t provide for us in these ways, but I don’t believe God always provides for us in ways that fit within our culture, or always has plans for us that are in line with cultural norms.

    I find that when I live in self-sacrificial ways that defy what our culture tells us is appropriate I tend to be closer to God because of the many distractions that no longer apply when I’ve simply given them away.  If I decide to literally give away my house, and have faith that God will provide for me, I will constantly rely on Him to provide me with the shelter I need.  I believe that the more we rely on God, the closer we are to Him and the better our relationship is with Him.  At the same time, if we know God wants us to sacrifice something and yet refuse to do it because it defies cultural requirements, we are most certainly sinning.

    Your thoughts?

  14. Edward Pease says:

    I struggle with the issues of wealth and the life of a Christian. The New Testament particularly is unequivocal in its condemnation of wealth. In sort the Bible seems to say that if you are wealthy you are missing the boat. We are called as Christians in to a community of mutual support which will ultimately mean giving our wealth to others in need.
    At the same time, I want the toys. Life is easier with money, particularly in a broken capitalist system like the one we live in. But I know that I should be giving more away. In comparison to most American Families Kym and I are choosing (both willingly and out of necessity) to live much more frugally. But we could do better.
    I think that when we look at the scriptures we see several different rationals behind the New Testament uncertainty around wealth.
    1) When we have plenty of money we are less likely to place our trust in God. Money becomes the center of our faith and our eternal concern. The question here is the issue of idolatry.
    2) The Bible wants us to live a much more communally than we do now. Christians were to look to each other for mutual support. To gather up wealth for yourself and your family was seen as withholding it from the community. Even when we look at offering at the Bible it was not to keep the church in the black, but instead offering went to the poor.
    Recently (February ’09) My congregation sent out a letter to its members due to a budget shortage (a shortage that we continue to experience). The letter calls on Mark’s gospel to discuss the need of Church members to place their trust in Godand give their money to the Church. “Do not put your money where the moth consumes, but in heavenly things.” The letter paints the member who withholds money from the Church as an idolator. When I pointed out that the Church was not placing its trust in God in writing this letter, I was ignored. But the modern Church has changed its understanding of the use and purpose for the wealth entrusted to it. When we look at how we spend our money 90% and more goes to operational costs. Less than 3% normally goes to mission to the poor and those in need.

  15. Jason Carr says:

    Some good points, Ed.  And I wholeheartedly agree with everything you’ve said.  It’s an interesting point you’ve made about communal living, one that I’ve pondered several times before but I find that I am too greedy to pursue.  I visited a small communal living society in college, and though many people made them out to be kooks (and in some ways they probably were), it was obvious to me that this was one thing they were doing right; they shared everything with everyone else and there was no such thing as “owning” anything because everything belonged to the group.  This is perhaps closer (but not necessarily entirely ideal) to what Jesus was going for.

    I’ve also been a bit thrown back lately pondering where I should be giving my money.  I don’t really think I’ll ever get to the point where I can justify not giving money to the church and giving money directly to the needy instead, but it does irritate me to see how little of my tithe is truly going to the needy.  We have to understand that in some ways we’re funding witnessing operations, but we’ve gone way too far in that direction.  I do believe the Church needs to be more sacrificial in its giving to the poor, as well, regardless of whether the funds coming in are ample or not.

    It’s good to hear from you, Ed.  Thanks for the response. :)

  16. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Hi Jason! See John Wesley’s take on Matthew 6:19, particularly point 11…
    http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/28/
    I agree, in many ways we as contemporary Christians can and should live more frugally and give more of what we have rather than hoard wealth for ourselves.  Please understand that it wasn’t cultural ‘requirements’ I described but how our culture shares an unspoken agreement on standards of living and interaction.  I also like the idea of communal living and some may think that is how we live currently with Linnie in our household here in Arizona.  Communal living is much more prevalent and successful in less complex non-Western societies.   Someone from 16th c Europe or 20th c America wouldn’t understand how communal sharing works and how people in these communities work through their differences when conflicts arise.

  17. Dad says:

    Very interesting conversation.  This is a huge topic and could easily be the subject of an entire Master’s level course (as a matter of fact, I know it has been).  So I will not re-state what has been already said – I agree with much of it. However, let me point out a few errors I see in the argument.
    First, Jesus’ call to a specific person to give away all he had does not automatically mean that Jesus wants everyone to do the same.  When Jesus tells the rich man to give away all he has to the poor in Matthew 19:21, Jesus says that because he knew that it was the rich man’s wealth that kept him from God. However, Jesus did not make the same suggestion to Zacchaeus in Luke 19, and even praised Zacchaeus for only promising to repay what he had stolen (though at a premium), without asking Zacchaeus to give it all away.
    Second, initially you raise the question of being “entirely sanctified.” While it is not specifically referenced in the conversation, much of the conversation seems to be built around the idea that one can be entirely sanctified.   Anyone who suggests that one can be entirely sanctified in this life is either significantly misguided, insane, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It would be theologically inaccurate to equate Jesus’ call to be  “perfect” with “entirely sanctified.”  Sanctification is better seen as a journey we are on, not a place at which we have arrived. Paul makes it clear that he kept sinning after he was justified.  He would not have claimed to be “entirely sanctified.”  Perhaps this seems like a minor point, but let me clear that it is dangerous to talk about being “entirely sanctified” in this life.  It is a lie of the Deceiver. A lie that I know is sometimes  passed on by some churches.
    Having made those two points, the question becomes does my attitude toward money, wealth and material possessions draw me closer to God or does it prevent me from drawing closer to God? Anything that pulls me away from God is sin.
    If I have truly given my life over to Christ, that means that I have given over my wealth to him, also; I am just the manager of what belongs to Him. We clearly are allowed to benefit from that which we manage for Him, but the question becomes are we using His money the way He would want?
    In other words, would owning a Lexus hurt me spiritually when there are so many starving people in the world?  Maybe, maybe not.  If I gave away a million dollars a year to the poor and could still afford a Lexus, would that be OK?  Take a look at Mark 14, where Jesus seems unconcerned with the poor and is OK with “wasting” perfume that is worth a year’s salary.
    I raise these issues, more out of a sense of showing the complexity of the issue, than to say what my opinion is.  As I said, I agree with much of what has been written.    But in the end this is not a “one size fits all” topic.
    Here are some things that I do believe:
    Some are called to give all they have away.
    Some are called to manage their wealth in a way that honors God without giving it all away.
    I believe it is very easy to let wealth/possessions get in the way of our relationship with God.
    I believe we are to do all the good on this earth that we can.
    Personally, there have been times in my life when I have struggled financially because of being paid a very low salary, now I am more financially secure, and I can honestly say that for me being poorer and having less material things did not make me holier or closer to God.  Having more money today means I give away a lot more money.
    I think this answers all the questions in your original post.
    I love all of you and love that you are having this discussion.

  18. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Thank you, Jay, for bringing more information and wisdom to the discussion.  I realize I do tend to bring in a different perspective than most, and I certainly defer to your knowledge on this topic.
    I also agree:  during my most difficult times I could feel my faith and connection to God strengthen, but it also ebbed in some dark moments when I questioned the purpose of some experiences or what I was learning from them.
    I do remember hearing that faith cannot grow without some doubt.
    I’m glad that we can know God, even if there are moments when we feel most beleagured.

  19. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Dad; yesterday Amber had asked me how I thought you would respond to the issue, and after thinking about it for a while I had said that you would say something along the lines of “if God calls you to give everything, then you should give everything.  But God doesn’t necessarily call everyone to give everything.”

    That was part of your response, but obviously there’s a lot more to it.  Regarding “entire sanctification,” this is something that has unfortunately come up on a regular basis in the Nazarene church, and I have refused to believe it.  I do not believe that even for a brief moment anyone can be free from sin, and this is apparently believed to be possible by many in the Nazarene church.  I am glad to know that I’m not the only one with this belief, because lately I’ve definitely been the outcast there.

    I personally do feel called to give everything I have away.  Truthfully, I can’t see myself ever really doing it, but it seems to be my lack of faith that’s holding me back.  I think my final personal consensus on the topic, though, will be what it usually is: it’s not my job to decide what other people around me are called to do.  And I’ll thank the Lord for that.

  20. Jason Carr says:

    Karrie, I’ll have to read up on John Wesley’s take tomorrow when I’m not worn out.  Thanks again for your insights as well. :)

  21. Amber Carr says:

    I agree with Jay. And I’m glad that Jason has “lack of faith” because if he really gave everything away and wanted to live that lifestyle, he’d have to become a protestant monk and leave his family… :(

  22. Jason Carr says:

    No…you’d just have to suffer with me… ;)

  23. Dad says:

    Jason, I knew you were smart, and the fact that you agree with me proves it! Amber, too!
    I do believe that believing that one is or can be “entirely sanctified” is a dangerous position and is hurtful in the long run.  It is similar to churches who say you are not a Christian if you don’t speak in tongues.  Sanctification should be seen as a growing process, never being able to say that I’ve “reached it.”
    Now, about your sense of call to “give it all away” and your “lack of faith.” Maybe your ambiguity isn’t a lack of faith, maybe it is a lack of clarity around the call.  As a pastor (not dad), I would encourage you to think about this sense of call you have.  Examine it and see what is underneath it.  For some there is a guilt in “having more” than others.  But for most people I think this sense of call to give everything away is a symptom of not yielding certain areas of their lives to Christ.  God wants all of you, more than God wants all your stuff.  Take a good hard look at what parts of your life you want to maintain control of, where  does God want to be at work in you but you’ve not let Him?  The truth is, it is easier to give away stuff than to give God complete control of all areas of our lives.
    I can’t answer this for you.  But by way of example, here is what I’m talking about: could your sense of call to give away your stuff be masking a greater call on your life to give up your high paying job and go to seminary? This question touches several areas of your life that you and God may need to wrestle over.
    Think of it another way, what would produce the greatest good?  What can you do that would have eternal benefits to other people?  What eternal effect would giving away money or stuff have?
    Some people are called to give away their stuff.  But that is easier than giving up your self.

  24. Debby Oakes says:

    The Lord is very specific in leading us in a certain direction.He has  specifically lead me to a ministry to “feed” His sheep Sat. mornings. You had me wondering am I sinning mixing in the less expensive gr. turkey with the beef !? Thanks Jasons Dad for helping me out with that one! ; )

  25. Jason Carr says:

    Wow, Dad, you’re reading pretty deep into my mind.  My friend Scott Whalen brought up to me yesterday that I have a missionary heart, and this has been clear to me for quite a long time, in truth.  I am wondering if, perhaps, God is trying to push me in this direction.  And I have to admit that part of my interest in this “giving up everything” topic is closely related to the concept of, perhaps, being a missionary in some way, shape, or form.

    So I think you’ve successfully pried the bigger picture out of me, here.  I was hesitant to share it because honestly I’m afraid of people thinking I’m a kook (I think I’m a kook myself).

    Anyway, I am praying about it.  But I believe that God has tailored me in the past few years (probably my whole life) to prepare for something like this.  I’m not fighting it, but I’m not actively looking for it.  I’m still looking for the kick in the head.

  26. Scott Whalen says:

    I didn’t have a chance to read all of the comments, I only read the main article so if this stuff has already been said or if this goes against everything already said, I apologize. In reading this article for the sake of reading the article, I’m totally in your corner Jason. The points you make, the way the conversation sounds, I’d be a heretic to claim anything otherwise. However, in being a part of that discussion in the Bible Study, I’m a little surprised that this is what you walked away with. In reading the article, I feel almost ashamed to say that I led that Bible Study, so let me try to clarify what I believe, what I was hearing in the discussion and once again apologize that this did not come out clearly.
    Not giving up everything we have is a sin. I have no struggle with this. God does not say that it is okay for us to keep. The call of the Christian life is surrender. This is also what I personally believe of sanctification. Entire sanctification is not entire perfection, but entire surrender. Not complete perfection, but complete surrender. Nazarenes talk about this being a point and a process. I remember the point in time when I fully surrendered everything I have to God. From that point, it is a continued journey in Christian maturity. I do not believe we can reach that point of Christian perfection on this side of heaven. I do believe that we can reach the point of total surrender to God and his plan for our lives. This is where I believe the discussion should have gone, in particular, these verses. “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” This passage that we discussed was never about the material possessions. The folks that he was writing to had made plans that did not include God in any way shape or form. There was no surrender, it was all about them. What is unfortunate is that many times in life, we hit the crossroads of decision: will I go my way or God’s way. We KNOW that we should always go God’s way. Always! Yet, there are times where we dabble in temptation, we say “Yes” to ourselves, and because of this say “No” to God. Anytime we say “No” to God is sin.
    Going back to the material possessions, we also talked about the rich young ruler and how Jesus called him to give up everything he had. I don’t believe this was because he had possessions, but rather his possessions had him. Anytime there is something that is going to get in the way of us growing closer to God, it’s better to get rid of it. However, it is possible to have possessions without them having you. Even though I have a house to live in, food on the table, ways to get around town, and many other things that I probably don’t need (if we really want to get down to what a need is), I know in my heart that everything that I have right now is God’s. I’m simply managing God’s resources. He owns it all. It’s a pretty overwhelming thought that He would even trust me! The challenge I have to face and be accountable for is: how am I managing what God has entrusted to me? This life is not about advancing our own name, but His. How am I using the physical blessings he has entrusted to me to advance His name, and in what ways am I mismanaging what He has entrusted me with, because I’m sure there are many ways. This is the constant journey of seeking and surrendering. This is why I view the sanctified life as a continued process, it’s a daily surrender.
    I do agree that in many ways we have no idea what it is to live a self-sacrificing life. Most times when we give, we give out of surplus, not out of sacrifice. The call you’re talking about is a radical one, and Jesus was radical. If we did give up everything we have, we would know what it is to depend on God.
    Here’s where I land. God wants us to make it in this life, and to make it victoriously. While perfection (no more sin) is a tough thought, I do believe that we can have victory over sin. We’re not called to live a defeated life, but an empowered life in Christ. This cannot happen if there are things standing in the way. Those things are not always material possessions. They can be ambitions, dreams, selfish desires. This goes back to the original call to complete and total surrender. If God is at the center of everything that we do and everything that we are, then the way we spend our time and resources, the way we treat those around us, the care and compassion that we show is simply an extension of God living through us in this world. Our goal is to make a positive impact on people for him. So, give up everything we have? Absolutely. It wasn’t ours in the first place!

  27. Amber Carr says:

    LOL Debbie you are so funny! Scott, thanks for your comment. I hope you get the time to read through the comments. They are very interesting! :)

  28. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Scott, for your thoughts.  I apologize if my misunderstandings of the discussion led to some invalid assumptions, and if, as a result, they were misleading.  It was never my intention to embarrass or label anyone as wrong; I simply wanted to try and understand things on a deeper level.  Obviously, I misinterpreted some things from the discussion.

    I, admittedly, have had a tendency in the past to do so.

    Also, though you lead the Bible study, you were obviously not the only one sharing.  Therefore, in no way does what I’ve said reflect directly on you or your beliefs; forgive me for not coming directly out and saying this in my original post.

    I very much appreciate the discussions that we have during our Bible study, and I don’t think anyone’s theological views have been damaged by any of them.  I think they are healthy discussions that have helped us all to grow spiritually.

    Regarding your theological responses, for the most part I agree with everything you’ve said.  The only thing I still struggle with is sanctification, but I think my issues there are mostly semantic and unimportant.

    Thanks for sharing your views, Scott.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that it’s not my job to decide how God calls others around me; I only really have to worry about how God is calling me, which is hard enough.

  29. Scott Whalen says:

    Hey Jason,
    Definitely no need for apologies. I didn’t take anything as a personal attack or anything like that. In reading your thoughts, it made a lot more sense than where the discussion went on Wednesday night. I was hearing more of the other guys comments I think than the heart of your discussion.
    I join you on a journey in search of truth. I’ve done my best to not wave the denominational flag on Wednesday nights because I don’t want that to be the foundation of our discussions. If we study the Bible for truth, naturally that should coincide with what we find in our beliefs. This doesn’t always happen, and I find myself bending denominational definitions (i.e. entire sanctification) to make them what I feel is Biblical, thus being able to be accurate and also supportive of the Church of the Nazarene. I don’t know if this is right or wrong, but my journey is one set for truth.
    I truly appreciate your input. My response was not one out of being defensive (although it might have sounded that way), but rather trying to clarify where I felt that passage was going. We’ll continue the discussion, and we’ll be better for it. Thanks for seeking truth and for presenting a forum to search that out in a community.

  30. Jason Carr says:

    Scott, I agree that a journey set for truth is far wiser than a journey set out to fulfill the definitions of any particular denomination, and I don’t see anything wrong with questioning the theories that our current denomination promotes.  In fact, I see it as a spiritual requirement.  Therefore, I believe that we are taking the best approach here.  I don’t think we’re attempting to “bend” the Nazarene beliefs; I believe we’re attempting to question them to understand them better.  And I don’t think that anyone in their right mind believes absolutely everything that their personal denomination preaches as truth.

    I’ll look forward to our discussion this Wednesday. :)

  31. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Jason:  Protestant Monks… HA!! that will never happen…  Don’t think for a second that the monastic life is free of material or worldly desires.
    Nazarenes… Tom thought they were a variety of citrus and asked when they were in season.
    But seriously, folks!
    Jason, God calls us to do His work in a variety of ways.  Missions require a very deep, unfettered commitment.  I have heard stories of people with families going out into remote areas of the world with varying degrees of success.  However, missions can also take place right in your own back yard, too.  It can be extremely fulfilling for all involved or may cost you your life. The caricature of people boiling in large pots isn’t too much of a hyperbole!
    I’ve always been extremely impressed with the global missions arm of the United Methodist Church, UMCOR.  Faith demonstrated through works conveys a very powerful message.  People’s hearts are moved much more through these genuine acts of Christian love and faith such as providing relief, health care, building infrastructure, and other ways.   Not sure if your  father had mentioned it but I was in the process of applying for an UMCOR post in Guatemala just before I got the job in Arizona.
    But be aware, the world has been heavily mission-ized since the early history of the Christian Church.  The very people you are trying to reach may be suspicious of the intent or motives behind these efforts and may perceive them as having other agendas.  Many missions become derailed through previous unscrupulous missionaries, a lack of understanding of the local culture, and regional political issues.
    Continue to seek, ask questions, and learn.  Don’t be in too much of a hurry to blindly leap, but take the opportunities as they present themselves.

  32. Debby Oakes says:

    Really good stuff. It is very cool recognizing Jesus shinning through you Jason & thats what its all about,keep seeking, (I know you will) He will make it clearer & clearer.

  33. Your brother says:

    Good stuff, man I missed being challenged like this – my faith is very much lacking due to the fact that I cannot find a good church home.  I’m glad that you guys have found something that seems to be challenging you and even helping you grow spiritually.  Anyone know of a good church in Denver?  Seems like everyone I go to misses my generation completely.  I can hang out with 30 somethings – and then there’s sometimes college – but there’s never really a young adult group.  I’d always be the one starting it if it was actually going to happen.  I’m not in a place where I want to lead a group, but to listen and learn.  Something that could create this type of conviction in me would be awesome… otherwise I’m just “going through the motions.”  Yay for that :(

  34. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks, Debby.  I hope so…

    Karrie, my critical heart immediately jumps to logic and reason and I can come up with ten thousand reasons not to step out.  Now that I’ve thought about it, I don’t really believe that the traditional “pack up and leave for [your favorite heathen country here] and spread the love of Jesus” is necessarily the best approach to missions, but I suppose it would be an option if God pushed me in that direction.  I don’t really see myself ever doing that in particular, however.

    I’ve learned these last few years that my passion is definitely for youth, and youth for some reason are extremely attracted to me.  If there’s one thing that’s obvious, it’s that God has given me a gift specifically with youth, and He’s likely to use me in this area.

    The problem is, I don’t really see myself as a youth pastor.  I think it would drive me nuts; I don’t think I could stand to work for the church.  Too many restrictions.  Too many meetings.  Too much politics.  My current youth ministry position is volunteer, and as a youth leader I can’t see it working any other way.  God may have different plans, however.

    We’ll see what kind of opportunities he has up his sleeves.

  35. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Doing God’s work with youth doesn’t require a full time mission or church supervision.  You just have to be available and understanding to work with youth.  Remember youth are a very pivotal time in their lives as they explore the paths they will take into adulthood.  Being God’sbest example for the youth in your life is the best way to approach the mission. And yes, this is a mission as much as packing up your family and heading to the remote areas of the world.  But also be aware, there are some youth that can metaphorically boil you  in a pot, just as much as tribe of Yanomamo!

  36. Jason Carr says:

    Hahahaha, oh yes.  Yes they can.  I’ve yet to allow that, though… ;)

    God’s currently using me in these ways; it’s just that I’m craving a bit more right now.  I’m anxious and curious to see what’s in store…

  37. Brock Hoyer says:

    Give everything? Jesus did call us to give up everything, but the only thing we really have to give is our hearts or our self. Jesus said, “what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” This is the only thing we have that we can give to God, our souls, our will, our love. Everything else we have, talents, time, resources etc. already belongs to God. They are on loan to us as stewards. God has loaned these to us to be in partnership with us in the journey of life.

  38. Jason Carr says:

    Well said, Brock; yes, our souls are really the only thing we can give to God, as he owns all we have.  I guess the real question I had was whether God wanted us to always give away the physical gifts he has loaned us to others.  I’ve concluded, though, that this isn’t always what he wants us to do (though we don’t do it nearly enough).

  39. Karrie Porter Brace says:

    Hi Jason!  We heard a great sermon from our Pastor Jane Tews in Tempe this morning.  I stand corrected regarding the antiquity of the belief that God favors his faithful with tangible assets.  This goes back to Deuteronomy.  Jews who were right with God were blessed with material and spiritual gifts.  If one was not right with God, it was believed that they would suffer.  (Aside: But then we have the Book of Job…  A man right with God and faithful, yet he suffers much from the disucssions between God and his archangels.  In the end he is restored, but a lot befalls him in spite of his constancy. )  Our Northern Renaissance and Protestant Work ethic do come out of this, too.

    Jane’s sermon this morning was about stewardship.  Yes, that time of year…  But she wanted to talk about the different  perceptions of the text regarding money and evil.  She wanted to clarify that the pursuit of wealth as a means to its own ends was what separates a person from the Divine.  Our wealth, collectively, is how we manifest God’s work on Earth.
    She spoke about how the young wealthy ruler had approached Jesus and asked how he might enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  According to Talmudic law, the young man was right with God and had been richly blessed.  Yet he still felt a separation from God. When Jesus looked on this man and his dilemma, he did so with love.  He understood deeply how this man obeyed God’s Laws and kept him self ritually pure.  In Jane’s opinion what Jesus did not like was how wealthy land onwers of the time extorted too much from their tenant farmers by over charging them for the use of the land.  It was in this manner she felt that the young ruler and his class in Hebrew society made their money off those less fortunate.
    So I think you’re still OK… Unless of course you ask too much from those who look to you for their survival.  But that doesn’t mean you sell yourself short to those who need your techno skills…
    YOU STILL NEED TO FEED THAT DARLING BABY!!  And he has to go to college someday.
    Make your choices wisely!

  40. Jason Carr says:

    Haha…yeah I promise I won’t gamble away the financial stability (or instability) of my family.  At least…not unless God pushes me in that direction.

    But Reese could stand to go hungry for a few days… ;)

    And I’ll work on actually paying my servants this month… ;)

  41. In googling this subject, I came across this post and comments. I have been listening to David Platt’s sermons on being Radical…and he makes some great points in them….and it causes me to struggle….although my family and I are considered “poor” according to our terms in this country, we are without debt and live truly better than most in the world. We don’t have brand new vehicles and we repair/add to our home as money and time allows. We don’t have all the *best* but we live a truly comfortable simple life. But as I focus on scriptures where Jesus says that we should sell everything (like in Luke 12:32-34) then I think we definitely have tooooo much! It’s such a struggle…as I want to do what is right…but how much is too much?

  42. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks for sharing your situation, Katy. I feel like I know even less on this subject than when I wrote the post, but I have learned a few things; the first of which is that the more we give away to God, the more we will be blessed. However, I’ve learned that giving something away to God often means giving it to the poor, but not always. There are things that are important to our ministry that would crippling to give away. An online ministry wouldn’t be very productive without a computer, for example. We have already given that computer away to God if we are primarily using it for His work.

    I think more important than dwelling on how much we have is where our attitude is and our heart lies. If our possessions are more important to us than our relationship with God, then it would do us some good to give them away, and God will bless us for it. However, if God is our focus He will guide us and we will live according to His will simply because He is providing our primary direction.

    One last important thing to note is tithing. The Bible plainly declares that we should be giving a minimum of 10% of our income. No matter what our financial status, our giving should never fall below this mark. It is considered a “minimum,” however; we are not “off the hook” after 10%. The more we give, the more we will be blessed.

    If God has placed this on your heart, then I believe He is asking you to give more. Whether he is asking you to give more of your time or finances, though, is between you and the Lord. :)

    • lucas boden says:

      If you are living by the Law, the 10% rule is actually 100%.

      Choose Grace instead. Living by grace doesn’t mean we should stop doing good nor stop tithing.

  43. lucas boden says:

    Yes, Christ calls us to be perfect and whole, but this cannot be done by giving away all your possessions to the poor.

    “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.”

    Read further in the verse – With man, it is it impossible. But with God, all things are possible.

    To me the story about the rich young man is a story about LAW vs GRACE like most stories in the New Testament. The LAW – If you want to be perfected by following the commandments, then in order to be perfect you have to give away all your possessions to the poor. God however has provided a new solution. The GRACE – He sent his only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Following Christ and doing good is no longer out of fear of hell or to acheive a ticket to heaven. We follow Christ and do good out of gratitude because he saved and loved us 1st.

  44. Chelsea says:

    I feel really guilty. My husband just encountered a young man pan-handling and preached the gospel to him. He was thrilled to hear that he would be welcomed in our church. My husband told him that we used to be drug addicts and that without Jesus we would have never had the will to stop using drugs and give our lives to Christ. My husband ran in the house to tell me all about it and told me he was going to give the young man one of our Bibles and our last ten dollars. Since we do get paid tommorow it wouldn’t have been all that bad. But I didn’t want to give it up because I would have had to walk home from the school. (our transit system is on strike.) I refused to give it to him and thought he was acting abit crazy, he was angry with me and said “wouldn’t it be worth our last dollar to save the man’s soul?” I didn’t reply but as he walked out the door to meet the young man I began to feel guilty and quietly thought “yes it would be.” Know that I think about it I am sure that the Lord would have provided for us.

    • Jason Carr says:

      Chelsea…I know the feeling. I’ve been there more than once. But you’ve already been forgiven…don’t dwell on your past. Look at it as an opportunity to give in some other way… :)

  45. JohnYouell says:

    Good discussion and enjoyed reading the posts here. I would like to make a few observations of my own, if I may. In regards to what the Naz. Church teaches regarding santification. There is a difference between “complete sanctification” – the sinless perfection that will only be realized when we stand with God in eternity – and “positional sanctification.” The word “sanctify” in it’s basic form simply means to be “set apart.” It’s the idea of purchasing a cup from a store and then giving it as a gift to someone. The cup hasn’t become better. The cup has changed very little in it’s substance. It’s ownership has changed. Where once the cup could be used by anyone, it now is to be used by it’s owner.

    Salvation is the acceptance that we are sinners who cannot find our way home on our own. Thus, we are lost. This is the message – regardless of the form – that is preached weekly by the majority of the churches in our country. We are obsessed with the salvation message. Before we were saved, we were slaves to sin. We had no choice.

    Jesus’ sacrifice gives us the ability to “choose this day whom we will serve.” He gives us our life back.

    Sanctification is where those saved, choose of their own free will to give their life back to the father. They recognize that they are the cup and they choose to give themselves to God. There are those who teach sanctification as sinless perfection. This is not accurate and is a form of manipulation and control. The New Testament teaches that no one should give anything (including their life) under compulsion but should give freely.

    So, just know that not all who are spirit-filled believe in complete sanctification. But we should sanctify ourselves unto God – we should come to a place of complete surrender to the will of God for our lives. This leads me to the next point regarding the main thought of this thread.

    Following God will require sacrifice on all of our parts. Only God knows the deceptiveness of our hearts. He knows what has mastery of our hearts. Money, wealth, possessions – these are not evil. But to love them more, hold them closer, desire them more that God, that is evil. For some, Jesus challenged them in the area of the finances because he knew it was the linchpin issue they needed to deal with. For others it was the attitudes of their hearts. For still others it was how they treated their wives and children. Just as those who teach “complete sanctification” (to me) have taken scriptural points to their extreme, we must be careful of doing the same in this area.

    The issue isn’t money. The issue isn’t wealth. Please do not forget that Jesus was so wealthy, he had a traveling accountant. Also, the early church was wealthy – it was their wealth that allowed them to meet each other’s needs. Following God obediently throughout all of Jewish history carried the promise of provision by God. Who wants to serve a God who doesn’t care about changing their lives in every area? Where is the good news in that?

    I believe there is a stronger case that can be made for that those who follow God should be the happiest, the most peaceful, the most blessed, the most successful, and likewise, the greatest servants, the best givers, etc.

    God can use those who have lots of material wealth to meet needs and live lives that cause others to follow God just as well as those who have nothing.

    In closing, I believe it possible to have our wealth can be an idol and barrier to our ability to follow Jesus. Likewise, I believe that our poverty can also be an idol and a barrier.

    Whatever God’s will is for our individual lives, whatever we do or don’t have, the ultimate challenge is that we set ourselves apart for His good pleasure and obediently follow him.

    We live in two words at the same time. How does God meet the needs of people? He moves on those who have the resources who can meet those needs. Anytime we have the means and the ability to meet a need in others lives and do not do it, we must deal with the question of our sanctification to God and our willingness to surrender all to his Will.

  46. Jason Carr says:

    Thanks for your response, John. However, I have to admit that this is the first time I’ve heard that “Jesus was so wealthy, he had a travelling accountant.” Jesus being wealthy seems to fly in the face of much of what I’ve learned thus far. What scriptures do you base this on? What do you mean exactly?

  47. Josh says:

    God calls us closer to him by having us ask him for our needs and to withdraw the intention of spending it on pleasures. The more stuff we have, the less we need from God because we feel secure, even though we are not. To give up our stuff, we are completely giving ourselves up to our heavenly father and relying solely on him to provide for us. I have found the more I give up and the more I try to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, the more blessed I am spiritually and I don’t miss the materialistic world.

    To answer the question about being sanctified, the word of God teaches us that we cannot worship both him and wealth, so I do not believe that we can be sanctified without letting it all go. Letting go is an awesome feeling in itself too. I have been releasing my burdens and worries slowly and I always find more comforts and support as I do.

  48. Jim says:

    In my life, I used to have a lot of junk! Like money, sports cars, & houses. Here’s what I have found, when I had those things, my life was about “looking good” I could get the girls and make the guys think I was somebody, buy what did God think of me? Well long story short, He
    one day took it all, I no longer have a house that you would call “nice” forget the beach house on the ocean, or the Rolls Royce in the garage! I said to God one day, “Do whatever it takes to bring me close to you” well He cleaned house Thank God He did. I was an uguly person, greedy, unloving, useless. I found this site because I googled, “giving up everything for Jesus”. I have asked God this morning, what He wants me to do. Paul said “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”.

  49. Jon says:

    I agree with you although I do see most Christians making excuses for having all the toys and worldy junk so they don’t have to give it up I am going to share this with my teens on wednesday it fits perfectly with what we have been discussing thank you.

  50. JJ says:

    It was over a year ago that I discovered that God expected me to give up material things. Although, I have since realized that it is always possible to end up with more. Every day is a battle. But it is also a growing experience.

    My wife and I recently realized that the typical worldly life just doesn’t cut it as servants of God. Society has been designed to keep us caught up in the world. You can run but you can’t hide from bill collectors and overly expensive cost of living. This keeps you parked at a full time job, staying tired and beaten. The kids end up in an institution every day, being corrupted by godless people. This makes us failures as God’s children.

    Anyway, my wife and I decided that we would sell out little old house and get a used motorhome. Living on the road, seeking out ways to survive would give us a chance to be a family full time. It would bring us closer, and the hardship would add meaning to our life. No more taking things for granted!! Of course, we would live by necessity alone. No more materialism. Most importantly, the kids would become more spiritual and wiser. That is our hope every day. I truly do believe that God can only be found in a place of humility, void of the ways of society.

    • Jim says:

      JJ, I hope you and your wife, spend time in prayer about this big move. I recently found myself at a cross road, I didn’t know if I should go to Georgia and feed the hungry and work in a soup kitchen, or buy this little property and stay in Florida. I asked Him to open and close doors according to his will, well the deal here in fl. opened up completely and I felt him saying to me, you serve where you are. It’s not where you live, but what you do! There are homeless here and needy everywhere. I hope God opens a door in your life aaccording to His will. May God bless you in your life choices.

      Jim

    • Jason Carr says:

      JJ, I definitely see how that can be beneficial in your family’s spiritual life, but I can also see how it could possibly become more of a burden. Still, if God is calling you there, by all means go, but make sure that He truly is first.

      Sounds like you might have already embarked, though; definitely curious to know how it’s going! :)

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