“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18.29,30)We will be continuing our focus on the life and teachings of Jesus this week. Remember that the purpose of our time in this series is to try and get into the actual headspace of Jesus and discover more deeply what His kingdom was to be all about.
Many have misunderstood Jesus’ words that we are looking at this week. They mistakingly think that He meant that if we give up something for Jesus in this life, we will somehow have more, materially, even in this life, than we could possibly imagine. This has led some to embrace what others have labeled a pseudo “prosperity gospel,” where if one follows Jesus one will have the best life now! This has created a source of puzzlement for others though, because this idea does not exactly match up with the ideas of those who chose to follow Jesus in the first century, and who, in losing all, even their very lives, clung tightly to the hope of a resurrection. And it does not match up with the experience of many today who have lost everything to follow Jesus.
What was Jesus saying in the above verse when he mentioned receiving many times as much, not just the age to come, but even in this age?
It may be helpful to look at Mark’s record of these words:
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10.29,30)
Did you catch it?
A hundred times back in this life, oh, along with persecutions!
Unlike us, today, in our individualistic, westernized, Americanized Christianity, the early church understood exactly what Jesus was saying. Look closely:
All the believers were together and HAD EVERYTHING IN COMMON. They sold property and possessions TO GIVE TO ANYONE WHO HAD NEED. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They BROKE BREAD IN THEIR HOMES AND ATE TOGETHER with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2.44-47)
Jesus’ followers in the first century formed tightly knit communities where people took care of each other. If I had lost my home for having followed Jesus, as I looked around the room there would have been ten other homes, possibly more, in the room that were mine to live in with my fellow brothers and sisters. If I had been rejected by a father or mother, as I looked around the room, I would have found possibly twenty fathers or mothers who would have stepped up to the plate to be a father or mother to me. This would have been the same with a brother or sister. And if I had lost my job for following Jesus, there were others in my Jesus community whom I could have leaned on till I got back on my feet and found other employment.
This is hard for many today to visualize because we are so individualistic in our contemporary culture, but this was not The Way of the first century followers of Jesus. They held all things in common, which simply meant, if someone lost something for following Jesus, within their own Jesus community there would be 10, 20, or 100 more at their disposal.
It is vital that we break out of our individualism to see this. Let me illustrate it this way.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6.19, 20)
How does one reconcile this teaching of Jesus with 401ks and other retirement accounts? Western individualism keeps us from truly being able to get our heads around this. Certainly, if we remain individualistic in our thinking and living, a retirement account is a must. But what if we were to actually begin to create communities of Jesus followers where we took care of each other again? I’m not saying, throw away your retirement account. What I am saying is, and it won’t happen overnight, but rather, over time, let us begin creating communities of Jesus followers where we actually stop living individualistically and start living together in such a way that retirement accounts become obsolete, and where the above teachings of Jesus in Mark and Luke can actually come true. They will never be true as long as we do not also practice the community element of Christ’s Kingdom.
Before we end this week, let me answer some questions that surface every time the teachings of Jesus begin to be taken seriously.
This sounds like socialism!
Remember that this is not something that is enforced by a kingdom of this world on unwilling subjects, but something that is voluntarily embraced, to one degree or another, by groups that covenant with each other to follow Jesus together and take care of one another.
Follow closely the words of Stuart Murray in this book The Naked Anabaptist:
“However, the majority of Anabaptists did not practice “community of goods” but “mutual aid.” This meant that they continued to own property and possessions, but made these available freely and gladly as they encountered others in need . . . economics and spirituality are connected for reasons of justice rather than charity. The backdrop to this conviction is a global economic order that is profoundly unjust, in which vast numbers are kept impoverished within a system that benefits and protects the powerful few. Charitable giving to offset some of the worst effects of this unjust system is laudable, but this can appease our consciences and distract us from working toward a more just world. The Anabaptist commitment to mutual aid recognizes the prior claim of others in need to what we possess-as a matter of justice, rather than charity . . . the practice of mutual aid confronts the pervasive individualism of contemporary western societies. Nowhere is individualism more apparent than in the economic sphere. Our property is private. Our possessions belong to us and are jealously safeguarded. Our homes are our castles, well-defended against any intruders. Most of us do not disclose the level of our salaries or savings to others, nor do we invite others to help us think through where we might live, what standard of living is appropriate, or how we might utilize our resources. It is quite unnecessary for our churches to conform to these cultural norms. If our churches are not institutions but communities, and if we recognize our need for each other’s help in discerning and resisting the economic pressures of our culture, mutual aid will consist not just in sharing resources but also in working out together how to be disciples of Jesus in the area of economics. This economic practice will impact our spirituality. (Kindle Edition, p. 122)
What about those who will abuse our sincere desire to follow Jesus?
It would be well to remember Paul’s words to the church in Corinth:
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be EQUALITY. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. THE GOAL IS EQUALITY, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8.13-15)
My helping them today means, once they are on their feet, they may have the opportunity to return something to help the group when they are back on their feet. But what if someone just starts mooching off the group?
Let’s look at Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica:
In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every BELIEVER who is IDLE and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were NOT IDLE when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we WORKED NIGHT AND DAY, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. We did this, NOT because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as A MODEL for you to IMITATE. For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Anyone who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are IDLE and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and EARN THE BREAD THEY EAT. And as for you, brothers and sisters, NEVER TIRE OF DOING WHAT IS GOOD. (2 Thessalonians 3.6-13)
There are a few things that I want you to take note of. First, this is a dilemma, taking place among believers. This is how followers of Jesus did life with each other. The teachings of Jesus would not be abused if they were not actually being followed. Second, notice the solution. The solution is not to abandon the teachings of Jesus and to embrace a more individualistic approach. It is that those who are mooching should go out and work in order to contribute to the group. Paul was clear, though: not only are they to stop being idle, but the group is to still keep doing what they are doing, “never tiring of doing what is good.”
Remember that in the first century, Roman culture did not have many of the social safety nets that many have in their respective kingdoms of the world they belong to today, including America. But early followers of Jesus did not need them. They, within their community of fellow Jesus followers, took care of each other.
Stop for a moment and dream with me. What a powerful testimony on how Jesus calls those who actually follow him to live life differently than everyone else. Wouldn’t it be beautiful if Jesus followers today made the social nets of our contemporary society obsolete and even unnecessary?
These teachings are not for everyone. This is simply how Jesus called HIS followers to begin living.
If you are like most, the question you are asking is, how do we begin making this transition from western individualism to Kingdom living?
Well, do not go out a burn your 401ks and ROTH IRAs. No, it’s going to take time. Where we begin today is in starting to create community again among Jesus followers, where staunch individualism is abandoned and we begin viewing each other as brothers and sisters once again, and we are not simply passing through, but we are called to establish a new Kingdom where life is lived very differently, here, now, today. A perfect place to start this is in your own HeartGroup!
1.Go back and prayerfully reread the verses in this eSight and take time to actually write down the thoughts, questions, and insights Jesus brings to your mind as you read them.
2.Share what Jesus shows you with your HeartGroup this next week.
3.As a group, begin praying that God will change the way you look at others, how you think toward economics, your emotional attachment to “Stuff” and how you choose to live.
(An example of this (and it’s just one example), is that recently, a small HeartGroup that wanted to lower the debt among them and begin using more of their resources to help others in need, covenanted to not make any major purchases over a certain amount without first discussing it with an accountability partner. This is just what this group has chosen to do. Prayerfully ask Jesus, the Head of each group, what He wants your group to grow in this area.)
At Renewed Heart Ministries, we are in the process of creating what we are going to be calling the RHM Mutual Aid Network. We are still in the brainstorming phase, but what we are praying toward is a closed, online network where vested needs can be posted from around the globe and each group can log in and view the needs of others and prayerfully consider whether their group can supply some needed help.
For instance, right now, I know of a dear friend in Missouri who is trained in paralegal and insurance sales who has been out of work for over 18 months. He has exhausted his own area and is willing to move anywhere where he can find some work. He even offered to turn wrenches at an oil-changing garage last week. He and his family are desperate and about to go over their own financial cliff. (Seriously, if you know of anyone hiring right now, email me and I will put you in touch with this family.)
But what if we had a community of Jesus followers desiring to aid one another when hard times hit and a network that could actually facilitate this kind of other-centered, self-sacrificial love?
Are you interested? If you would like to be a part of Renewed Heart Ministries Mutual Aid Network, where you are simply able to see other’s needs and determine whether you or your group can offer some assistance, shoot me an email this week, and just let me know whether you think this would be something positive for the Kingdom.
Prayerfully consider the words of John, someone mentored by Jesus for three years:
If any one of you has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3.17,18)
I have three children, Ali, Emarya and Christian, and I guarantee that if I were to see one of them on the street as an adult, I would not stop until I drug them home with me to have a warm meal, a dry place to sleep, and some help. The thought that I cannot escape this week is that each person out there tonight is an Ali, an Emarya, and a Christian to God. I can’t save the world, but I must let this confront me and prayerfully ask Jesus, what percentage of this world’s pain and need DOES He want me to take responsibility for?
The Kingdom Jesus came to establish is centered on one thing: manifesting the beauty of God’s Character. It’s much more than simply preaching (or listening to) a sermon. It’s a way of life. It’s about humbly and lovingly serving the world the way Jesus did. It’s about loving the world the way Jesus did. It’s not so much about going to church, as it is about being the church.
Much to ponder for sure.
This week, keep living in love, and loving like Christ! Now go enlarge the Kingdom.
Let me know if you feel the RHM Mutual Aid Network is something that, if done properly, would be a great idea!
I love you guys,
I’ll see you next week.