Each year before Lent begins, I spend time wrestling with God as to how I am being called to feast or fast. As I noted in my book and study Renegade Gospel: The Rebel Jesus, most Lenten seasons I find myself convicted in my tendency toward materialism. Many of us can find it so easy to seek the gifts of God rather than the God who gives. And, our expectations grow with income and age. The 36-inch color TV may still work fine, but a 52-inch flat screen is so much better, especially when expertly installed with surround sound. Materialism continues to slither forward, thanks to the engineered obsolescence of our smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The alluring addiction of a consumerist culture bids us to come forth and indulge. The “buy now and pay later” mantra has created a massive debt load for the average American. NerdWallet reported in 2016 that the average household credit card debt is $16,748, and the average household with any kind of debt, including mortgages, owes $134,643. We Christians have long taught the biblical principle of tithing, giving 10 percent of income to serve God’s kingdom; yet we trend with the rest of the American public in giving about 2.2 percent of our personal disposable income to nonprofit groups. We avoid the gospel call to give our lives sacrificially with Jesus for the world that God loves and instead use God to serve our personal interests. “Thy will be done” becomes “My will be done.”
Following Jesus in the way of the cross will mean a radical reordering of our priorities. We get a glimpse of those priorities in two of Jesus’ parables. In Luke 10:25-37, Jesus told the story of a good Samaritan who sacrifices his time and financial resources to help an unknown stranger. “Go and do likewise,” Jesus commanded a Jewish expert in the Law. In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus related the parable of a rich man who forgets his responsibility to be a channel for God’s blessings in helping the least and the lost. The man in the story wastes his precious gift of life, living only to serve his expanding lust for bigger, better and more. Jesus told him, “‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God” (verses 20-21).
What a poignant reminder — the only thing we can take with us beyond death is what we do for God and others.
Following Jesus means relinquishing the rights to all that we are and all that we possess. When a young entrepreneur came asking how to prioritize his life, Jesus told him, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22). When the young man heard this he walked away, choosing the comfort and security of his lifestyle over the renegade gospel of Jesus and the kingdom of God.
Following Jesus means being “rich toward God” by serving God’s interests in meeting others’ needs. Jesus put it this way in one of his parables: “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9). The rebel Jesus calls us to use our affluence for the purpose of influence in the lives of people who have neither.
What are you feasting or fasting this Lent?
Mike Slaughter is the almost four-decade chief dreamer and lead pastor of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations. Mike’s call to "afflict the comfortable" challenges Christians to wrestle with God and their God-destinies. Join Mike for his final Change the World missional church conference as lead pastor on March 16/17, 2017. His newest books are Down to Earth, The Passionate Church and The Christian Wallet.