In an age characterized by massive transference of information (or “false-information” as most of it proves to be) from one entity to another, it has become a culturally accepted notion that one must learn the skill of multi-tasking so that one can navigate the complex and perplexing responsibilities and requirements of today’s dizzying pace. I suppose, to a degree, there is some practical truth to the idea that one must know a little about a lot of things just to survive our technologically driven world.
That being said, however, a huge mistake that many make is to believe that one can “multi-task” in the sense of living a life of faith while at the same time living according to the whirling whims of a world that marches according to its own agenda.
It is as if a man, called to live in a new and wonderful land, settles for living merely along its borders, a sort of “hinterland” (a remote or undeveloped part of a country) wherein he celebrates the light and the glory of the new kingdom from afar, while still not quite free from the enamoring boasts of the old life.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus met such a man who queried, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 ESV).
Jesus countered him with a question of His own, one intended to give pause to a quick and easy solution to the man’s dilemma of wanting to live in two worlds simultaneously. “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only One Who is good” (v 17a).
The very fact that Jesus asked this question is, in my opinion, evidence that Jesus had (and has) an uncanny ability for seeing into the heart of a person and knowing how to deftly tackle the idols and issues that hinder his coming fully into God’s light and life. It is as if Jesus was asking him, “Are you willing to acknowledge My authority and will you truly hear and receive what I am about to say to you?”
Jesus then mentioned to this searching soul what all shallow seekers already know to do. “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (v 17b).
But there was the rub. The man had already been keeping them. Well, he had at the very least been keeping them externally. He had obeyed them with his hands and possibly with even his bank account (so far as the Law required). Yet, he was unsatisfied. He was unfulfilled. He was seeing from a distance that glorious light glowing and was hungry for what it represented, yet he was merely in the margins of the realm, and had not fully disclaimed citizenship of his old country.
“The young man said to Him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect (as in “whole, complete, or fulfilled”), go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (vv 20-21).
What a quandary for that young man! He wanted the joy and peace of Jesus’ life, but found himself forced to make a choice: he had to either surrender the few places in his affections that he had reserved for his own comforts, so that he could run unencumbered headlong into the life God had reserved for him; or he had to choose to continue as he had been doing, and never completely cross over into the land of promise.
“When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v 22).
It evidently was too a hard choice. In the moment of crisis, when forced to choose between continuing as he had for years (never quite in the light) or denouncing his citizenship of the world by surrendering the one thing of that old world he loved most (his stuff), his stuff won out.
Rather, his love for stuff won out. Keep in mind that owning possessions was not sin; but those possessions were his idol. But Jesus, loving him as the Savior loves each of us, brought to him the invitation to enter into the lovely meadows and fruitful groves of spiritual abundance that life in Christ is to those who whole-heartedly respond to His call.
By calling him to give up those things by giving them to the poor, Jesus invited him into a new life complete with new purpose and new meaning.
Today, the call to follow has not changed for those who are hungry for more than the mere phantoms of joy and pleasure that this world offers. We must still choose Him over pleasures and comforts; we must still decide between pleasing Him and forgoing popularity and good will; and we must still acknowledge Him as Lord (by which I mean we must obey Him) over following attitudes and philosophies of the world that are contrary to God’s Word.
But many of us will continue to dwell sorrowfully, knowing that we are missing still the glory and gain of the Kingdom of God while we remain on the borders, prisoners of the hinterlands of heaven, chained still to our old lives. Though we attend church and do our good deeds, there are “possessions” in our lives which still hold the place of supremacy, which still hold our allegiance.
Do not settle for the hinterlands, beloved. Fully surrender to the Savior your life and will and see if He will not fully satisfy your soul’s deepest needs. He invites you to come in and desires for you to be filled with the joy and peace of His presence.
(Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 23 ½ years, is the author of Led by Grace, The Fairy Tale Parables, Crimson Harvest, and A Heart at Home with God. He blogs at “unfurledsails.wordpress.com”. Pastor Thom leads Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org).