What would you give to be rich? What would you do to have it all? How much would you sacrifice to have the biggest house, the nicest cars, the finest clothes? What would it mean to you to not have to think about how much money you had, just spend whatever? If I could just have…if I could just get…if I can just achieve…if I could…if I… What would you do for it all?
Would you be willing to give up your integrity? Would you be willing to work so much that you never really did anything but work? Would you be willing to give up your family? What cost seems appropriate? You may be thinking you can’t put a price tag on happiness, but there sure are a lot of people trying. What would you give? People put value on things all the time – maybe not blatantly or outright. But how much something or someone is valued becomes obvious over time. What is it all worth? So what if you become the richest, greatest, most achieved…what if?
We seem to have it upside down too often in our culture. It seems to be that we value things we can buy and prizes we get to accumulate. We put a high price tag on wealth and worth. We treasure fame and reward too often. Yet, those things are fleeting. We work so hard to achieve that we are left drained. We could end up sacrificing what means the most to us in order to achieve things which end up meaning nothing. We give up our families so we can make more money. We give up our time so we can achieve more. And we are rewarded for this.
I had someone tell me the other day that they were the most accessible person ever. He carried two phones with him at all times and never ever wasn’t available. He thought this was a selling point. I actually found it pretty sad and quite disturbing. I don’t know him so I don’t know if he has a family. But if so, they always take second place. It also says he doesn’t value himself enough to provide self-care. Frankly, it made me even more determined to not do that.
So what do we value? What is important to us? What really means something to us? We may think it is one thing but realize it is quite something different. Our actions…our everyday decisions really tell the story. What we decide to do reflects our values. How we live each day says more about us than anything we could speak. And too often, we might be giving others a message we had not even considered. We may show others we value our own opinion rather than listening to the voices of others. We may show we value ourselves so much that we are not willing to learn from others. We may show we value money more than people. We may show we value winning over growing. We may show that the only thing that really matters is…me, myself and I. If it isn’t one of those three, it doesn’t matter. What does your life say about you?
I am drawn to today’s passage for that reason. This is not to be critical…but to encourage us all to take a look at what is being taught to see how we are living. This is an opportunity to stop and evaluate how we are living our lives and what it is we value. And we just might be surprised at what we find if we are truly honest and we take a real look.
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
What are you willing to give up to follow Christ? He has some pretty serious lessons for us if we choose to follow. He calls us to learn to love…loving God and loving others. He calls us to learn to sit at the table with those that make us feel uncomfortable. He demonstrates for us what it means to give up the us versus them mentality. He opens the minds of the religious and offers freedom in following him. That’s right…freedom.
How can we be free if we are following? What does freedom really mean? Does it mean getting what we want when we want it how we want it regardless of others? How about we redefine freedom. What if freedom is…free of the heavy load that we try to carry. We are free of the constant thriving for attainment. We are free from the load of trying to be like someone else. We are free from needing things to impress people. We are free from worry that we are not good enough. We are free from the judgment of others (not because they don’t cast it but because it doesn’t matter – we are his beloved regardless of someone else’s view). We are free from the demands to be someone we are not. We are free to live – really live.
Living is a gift. And if we can travel this life without a heavy load, even better. Imagine if we were free to travel without the burden of things. Imagine if we were free from worry. Imagine if we were free from constantly having to be someone for others. Imagine if we could simply live as we were created. Imagine if we understood we were enough. Life would certainly change. That takes freedom. To really live takes freedom from the daily anxieties that damage us. That does not mean we do not work. It doesn’t mean we don’t try to achieve or work to be better. It doesn’t mean we don’t pay bills. But it does mean that life begins to take on an entirely different view. We begin to see things differently. We don’t have to have the latest and greatest. We don’t have to worry about keeping up with anyone else. We begin to value our time enough that we spend it sharing love. We begin to understand that our time on this earth is short and is not best spent trying to get more stuff. We begin to see that some of the greatest gifts come without the cost of money. Life begins to take on an entirely different view when we follow Christ. It is freeing.
If we are following Christ – it is good to look at his example. What does he show us? What does he teach us? What life does he lay out for us? He didn’t have things, he had relationships. He built friendships. He fought for justice. He gave people a new view of the world. He developed relationships with sinners, tax collectors, diseased and forsaken. He challenged the beliefs of those who thought they knew it all. Most of all – he loved. He loved God and he loved others. He lived and it didn’t take things to do that.
What is keeping you from living, really living? What do we value? Do we value time and relationships and love and opportunities to know God better? Do we value sharing and reaching out and listening? Do we value the gift of creation and all that has been provided for us? Do we understand that following Christ is the greatest life ever? May we be free. May we learn to truly live. May we give of it all to truly follow…and live. And may it begin with me.