Sell Everything and Follow Me
That’s not for real is it? Do we really have to sell all of our belongings to follow Jesus? That was the question I had to answer years ago when I first read that scripture. Telling the story again to a bible class a few weeks ago reminded me to ask myself the same question today. Would I still make the same decisions? It is good to remember the kindness of God.
My family and I had moved to Agoura Hills, California and my husband had just started his new job at Disney in Burbank, California It was an exciting time of being invited to all sorts of movie premiers, getting fast pass tickets to get to the front of the line at Disneyland (when there wasn’t such a thing as fast past) any time we wanted and occasionally seeing some of the stars on the set at Tool Time. On the other side of things, it was a grueling drive every day on the freeway for Mike and he wouldn’t get home until 7:00 p.m. every night, thoroughly exhausted. We would have our “time” on the phone as he drove home on the freeway, sharing everything that had gone on during our days.
I was a brand new christian and had decided I wanted to read the bible for myself and found a study class called Bible Study Fellowship. Every week I would attend a class with about 200 women and we’d end up in small groups sharing what we’d learned in our homework that week. I was fascinated with all of the stories in the bible, and nervous that we would have to share our answers out loud, but wasn’t sure much of it applied to me. I kind of felt like we were in a history class, and I enjoyed learning about Jesus. One particular week we were assigned the story of the rich young ruler. This man had decided to follow after Jesus and he was asking Him some questions.
What Does The Bible Say?
“Good teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
I was so glad he had asked that question, because there were days when I wasn’t sure either.
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he aid. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Well, there it was. Sell everything. But did that mean that rich people were not going to get into heaven? I thought that was truly unfair. In the class there were knowing nods of the women around me as they discussed this scripture. The teacher looked at me and asked what I thought. I was terrified that I would have the wrong answer and everyone would laugh, but I blurted out “Does that mean I have to sell my new car? I just bought it, I don’t know if I could do that.” A woman beside me laughed and said “Well you could give it to me for a while, I don’t even have one to sell.” The ladies all chuckled and I checked out mentally.
Did I Care About Money Or Image?
I was so mad at her. She had no idea who I was, and how hard we had worked for me to get that new car! And our new house. As a matter of fact, we spent everything we earned, but we worked really hard. But that’s just stupid. Everyone can’t just go sell everything they own. That must be for missionaries. But you know how sometimes things just stick with you? The scripture just hung in the air around me. Why did that bother me so much? Why did I need her to understand me, and that I wasn’t some rich person who just didn’t get it? Why did I care what she thought about me?
I’m gonna have to say that was something I wasn’t free of. Peoples’ opinions of me. I was afraid they wouldn’t think I was spiritual enough if I didn’t want to “give up everything” and follow Jesus like the scripture said. That somehow they would know that I didn’t belong in this group, that I didn’t have the right qualifications to be a spiritual sister. And I certainly didn’t fit in with Mike’s group at Disney. The way that they dressed, talked, acted, and the things they cared about. I was still that little girl from the farm in Iowa. How would I ever get free from caring what other people thought of me? It followed me wherever I went. Funny, my husband was raised in a little town in Iowa too, but he didn’t have any of the hangups I had about what people thought. He just thought everyone loved him! And he loved driving new cars and buying big houses. However, something we hadn’t anticipated happened a few weeks later. Mike came home from work frustrated with the way things were going, and tired of the exhausting drive and spit out “I’m going to quit my job!”
Terror hit my heart. He couldn’t do that. We had just moved there one short year ago, and I worriedly told him “How would we pay our mortgage? You can’t quit until you have a new job!” A few weeks later we were hit with a huge tax bill we hadn’t expected and Mike still wanted to quit his job. I realized I had no idea what to do. I couldn’t fix this one. We were in a beautiful house that we’d dreamed of owning, the kids were just getting settled into their new school and making new friends, and I didn’t have to work. I was kind of getting used to this setup. All I knew to do was to go to church and see if God had any answers.
Let’s Become Missionaries
That Saturday was Missions night at church. Our pastor’s daughter had decided to share her story with us and began telling us an amazing tale of selling everything she owned, and moving into the inner city in Los Angeles with the Latinos to minister to them as a teacher. She had many difficult experiences, but it was “worth it all” she beamed. We were deeply moved and when the pastor asked those that felt that God had called them to become a missionary wherever he would send them to please come to the front, I was shaking. What was wrong with me? Why am I shaking? I wanted to go down front! I knew Mike would never go. We usually sat in the back so we could make a quick exit if things got boring. Suddenly he reached over and grabbed my hand. “I think we should go down”. What?! This was surreal. We both were trembling and shakily wobbled to the front to join about 6 other couples. I’d never done anything public like this before in all of my 40 years. What was going to happen? The pastor smiled and came over and prayed “Lord, thank you for this couple and their willingness to be missionaries to wherever you send them”. And that was it. We were suddenly hugging everyone and celebrating our decision…whatever that was.
We decided to go out to dinner and discuss “What had just happened?” Did we just volunteer to become missionaries? “Is God going to send us to Africa?” I worried.
“I heard a story the other day of a man who learned to fly planes and he went to Brazil to fly planes for the missionaries. That sounds like fun” laughed Mike.
Would God send us to Africa? Or maybe Brazil? Could I live in a hut? I grew up on a farm, maybe I could. But I haven’t even finished reading the bible. Maybe God would download it supernaturally. As we listed the reasons this was not possible; we have two children, we own a house, Mike has a job… we asked ourselves, “What is it that just weighs us down and keeps us from making a move?”
“The mortgage”, we both agreed out loud. We just couldn’t make the payments with the tax bill that was due. I was going to have to go back to work. But I thought God wanted me to stay home I lamented! How was this going to work? We love our house, but to keep it, I was going to have to go back to work. “Maybe we should sell the house”, we both agreed sadly. Here’s what we can do, I thought. “I’ll put the house on the market and if it doesn’t sell, I will go back to work. If it does, that means He wants me to stay home with the kids”.
When Mike drove home from work the following week, there was a sign in the yard. He was a little shocked at my speedy procurement of the deal, but agreed it was what we needed to do. The realtor that had sold us the house sadly told us “You’re not going to get what you put into the house. You bought during the height, and now the price of houses is going down.”
“We realize that, but we’re ready to take a loss if we have to” we sadly responded to the realtor. Our neighbors thought we were crazy, and that I should go back to work! They just didn’t understand what in the world we were thinking. A week later we got an offer on the house for full price and could we move out in 3 weeks! Wow!!!!
We moved into a rental to wait for God to show us what to do next. Even though it was so hard to move again, the house was a lot smaller, all our things were in boxes in the garage and I had to begin driving the kids further to school it was worth it! The freedom I felt after the fear of possibly not being able to pay our mortgage was gone and we were free to consider any option that was in front of us. And! I didn’t have to get a job. The fear of wondering what the neighbors thought was gone. They still loved us and thought we were very brave. Four months later Mike got a new job in the midwest and within 2 years we had paid off the mortgage on our new house and loans on our cars and had enough in the bank to not work for quite a while.
So, do we have to sell everything to follow Him? Guess that’s only something you and God can know the answer to. Sometimes it’s yes and sometimes it’s no. Nobody but God can help me know the answer. I’m just glad that God uses everything for good and His love for me is greater than I’ll ever know. That whether I sell it all, or keep it all, His love for me never changes.