Today’s guest post is written by Allison Vesterfelt, a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.
I used to think the most important thing I could do to please God would be to live a safe, responsible life; where “responsible” meant I went to college, got good grades, secured a well-paying job, put plenty of money in my 401(k) and in savings.
I stayed in my hometown, close to my family. I went to church nearby, every Sunday. I had a predictable schedule and a predictable income so there would be no major surprises.
The problem was, at the end of this all, I was really unhappy.
During this season, while I was working a job that didn’t use my skills and wondering how on earth I had gotten there, I re-read the story of the Rich Young Ruler. I grew up in the church, so I’ve read this story at least a hundred times in my 31 years, but for some reason, this time, I read it very differently.
If you’re not familiar with the story, it basically goes like this: A young man comes to Jesus and says (I’m paraphrasing here), “Okay, I’ve done all the stuff I’m supposed to do to get to heaven. I’ve followed all of the rules. I’ve been really responsible. But what am I missing?” Jesus tells the young man:
“Sell all of your things and give them to the poor. Then come follow me.”
When I had read this story before, I had always thought about it as a story for rich people and since I didn’t see myself as a “rich person,” I figured it wasn’t a story for me. “Good thing I’m not so attached to money,” I had told myself.
But this time, when I read the story, it fell on different ears.
This time I identified with the rich young man. I felt like I was coming to Jesus saying,
“Okay, Jesus. I’ve done all the things I’m supposed to do to get to heaven. I’ve gotten good grades and have a good credit score and I pay all my bills. But I still feel like something is missing. I’m not experiencing the abundant life you promised.”
“Everything just feels empty…”
And as far as I could tell, Jesus was telling me the same thing he told the rich young man. He was saying, “the way to heaven is this: let go of everything. Give it all away. I am the answer.”
So is Jesus telling us to be irresponsible?
Was God telling me to quit the job I was working? Was He telling me to sell all of my stuff and give it to the poor? Was he telling me I should go spend all the money I had hoarded away in my savings account?
But it’s easy for us to say this passage is just a metaphor—that God would never ask us to sell everything we own to get to heaven. But here’s the thing: Jesus did ask this rich young man to sell everything. He didn’t just ask him to let go of something. He asked him to let go of everything important to him.
What would it look like for you to let go of what is most important?
For me, this meant letting go of my idea of “responsibility.”
For so long, I thought responsibility would “save” me. I figured it would protect me from anything bad and keep me comfortable. But in that season, God confronted me with the notion that my idea of “responsibility” was also keeping me from heaven. Not “heaven” as in the place you go when you die, but “heaven” as in the Kingdom of Heaven, already coming to being, here on earth.
I think God wants us to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. I don’t think there is anything wrong with having a good job or 401(k) or a good credit score.
But at the same time, I wonder: what would it look like for us to be good stewards of our souls? Does “responsibility” have to be about money and status, or can it be about rest, relationship and creative talents? Do we have to work better, faster, harder and longer to build a “responsible” life, or can less actually be more?
For me, the answer has been an unequivocal yes.
And answering that question for myself has helped me find freedom the Rich Young Ruler didn’t find that day when he met Jesus. I hope he found it later, but that day, he walked away, sad, because he was so attached to his earthly treasures, he wasn’t willing to give them up for heavenly realities.
For me, this has meant quitting jobs, even when it didn’t necessarily make financial sense to do so. It has also meant, at times, working jobs I didn’t love, for a season, because I felt God leading me to do it. It has meant letting go of friendships, letting go of expectations, letting go of physical stuff.
It has meant resting more and worrying less.
And while it hasn’t been perfect, I’m learning “responsibility” (or at least my idea of it) isn’t everything. I’m learning to trust. I’m uncovering heaven.
Allison Vesterfelt is a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. You can find her online at AllisonVesterfelt.com.
Today’s guest post is written by Allison Vesterfelt, a writer, speaker, and the author of Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage. I used to think the most important thing I could do to please God would be to live a safe, responsible life; where “responsible” meant I went to college, got good grades, […]