“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”
The average American gives 2.3% of their gross income to church and/or charity while spending over 5% of their gross income on entertainment. We buy what we want, eat what we want, watch what we want and when we want to, do what we want, go where we want to go, etc. etc. etc. One thing is for sure: we almost NEVER deny ourselves.
Since I’m not one to let you off easy, I’m not including those things we simply do not have the ability to acquire. That’s coveting and an entirely different subject. I’m addressing the fact that we tend to get whatever we are capable of getting, and that runs contrary to the kind of lifestyle that Jesus is calling us to in today’s verses.
I have a wealthy friend (he is a believer) in the Midwest who was struggling a few years back with “keeping up with the Jones’s”, whoever they are. His neighbor would spend $10,000 on a Super Bowl party so he felt obligated to spend a little bit more when hosting the next party, just to keep up. I told him back then that it didn’t take much of a man to do everything he was capable of doing, but rather, it took a much bigger man to show restraint. Enter Matthew 16:24-25.
The point of this passage is not a call to poverty in order to prove your piety. Jesus is calling His followers to crucify their worldliness and empty themselves of their fleshly desires in order to be able to fully receive the abundant life He came to give them. A life, by the way, that doesn’t have anything to do with name brands, fads, the “American Dream” or anything else that will go back into the box when we die.
Start small. Give something up for a day. Don’t watch TV tonight. Don’t eat dessert. Don’t stay up late. Don’t buy the next thing you want to buy but don’t need. Denying yourself goes from material things to sin to taking your thoughts captive and the more you practice it…the easier it becomes.
I believe it grieves the heart of God to watch us settle for less than He wants to give us. We chow down on the slop of the world and miss the feast of His way and His blessings. We live for the “here and now” and invest next to nothing in the “forever.” We should all be striving to live out the words of that great old hymn…
“And the things of this world will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”