Bruce Barkhauer: Unencumbered

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

“Our entire Western economy is based on consumption. One cannot be a successful consumer without adequate resources. When we couple this notion with the idea that scarcity is what gives added value to objects, we create a relentless and self-consuming cycle of desire and pursuit which leads only to hoarding and deep levels of anxiety. It elevates money to a god-like status with the mistaken belief that if we have more of it, we will have a sense of greater worth and experience lower stress. This is the prevailing wind of North American existence. Sailing against it is not easy, especially when it blows at hurricane force.”

“It takes courage to speak either to the false relationship between wealth and blessing or to address the responsibility and the burden of wealth … The story of the rich young ruler (of Mark 10:17-31) tells both halves of our dilemma. He is both wealthy and intentional about keeping the law — a sure sign of blessing. When he asks Jesus what is truly necessary to experience the realm of heaven, Jesus directly challenges his relationship with his stuff and simultaneously invites him to divest of the concerns of the world in favor of investing in the qualities of the realm … There is nothing that says we have power over our money greater than our ability to give it away. The converse is also just as certain to bear witness to its power over us. When we already have a god, we are rarely willing to be the disciple of the One who really is.”

“And there is the audacity of what Jesus asks. Give it away. Give it all away? Really? But not just anywhere. Sell what you have and give it to the poor so that you will have treasure in heaven. Take what you have and do the things that give evidence to the unfolding realm of God in your midst. Where need is absent, God is most surely present. To make provision for the poor is to signal that the old age of brokenness and want is passing away and the new age that Jesus brings — one of wholeness and plenty, is surely coming. To give all away is to be unencumbered by its overt and hidden snares and deceitful claims.”
Bruce Barkhauer in “Courageous Conversations About Money” in Giving: Growing Joyful Stewardship in Your Congregation, volume 20 (Richmond: EMS, 2018) 8-10.

We challenge listeners to live Christianly — to reflect contribution rather than consumption, giving rather than taking. When we live unencumbered, we “make provision for the poor” and “give evidence to the unfolding realm of God” through our witness. If you have wealth, it comes with responsibility. Show your faith with it! Be unencumbered.

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