In church one Sunday, I was sitting in the “bleacher seats” (the elevated seats in the back of the auditorium), when I noticed the guy in front of me passing the offering basket. What caught my eye was that his hand twitched, and – from what I saw – I think that he was passing the offering plate with the same hand that he was holding his smartphone with, and almost ended up passing his smartphone to the next person, right along with the basket!
Now, I’m certainly not judging this guy. I don’t know his name, but I think that many of us have found ourselves caught up in doing two things at once, and fumbled the wrong thing. Still, I think that there’s a lesson to be learned by almost dropping one’s phone in the offering basket.
Just to back up a little, let’s make sure that we all appreciate that following Jesus is rewarding, but it costs followers everything. If you don’t believe me, Jesus said as much to those who wanted to be His disciples:
So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.
Luke 14:33 NASB
Having said that, one reason that all Christians aren’t walking around empty-handed and dressed in rags is because giving everything over to Jesus doesn’t mean that He necessarily keeps it all (even though He still owns it). While our management of God’s resources is expected to be done with His guidance, He also provides for His adopted children, who serve as His “investment managers”: those who collect, invest, spend, and give away His wealth. God doesn’t promise lots of money, fancy clothes, or a luxurious house, but He regularly provides all of the things that His followers need, in the right amount for them to fulfill their part in His plan. In fact, I believe that we receive opportunities and resources according to our respective ability to manage them (see Matthew 25:14-30, for instance). However, we don’t have the right to judge someone’s spirituality by their wealth – that’s not what I mean at all.
Still, this verse still stands. Giving everything to Jesus requires surrendering control of everything to Him, and often surrendering our physical ownership of some or all of our possessions. We may not be called upon to donate everything (although God is well within His rights to do so, and sometimes asks specific followers to do exactly this), but we must yield them all to Him, and then learn what He has in mind for our belongings, wealth, skills, time, and opportunities.
This passage refers to a key part in achieving that goal, “the knowledge of His will”, but it also explains some of the amazing things that can happen when we live according to that knowledge:
For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light.
Colossians 1:9-12 NASB
And, “everything” means everything. That means our major decisions in life, as well as how we spend our little moments. It includes our formal e-mail notes to people at work or those we do business with, as well as the little texts that we dash off while walking down a hallway or sitting in a waiting room. We must give over to God not only our regular offering to a local church community, but also the choices we make in how to spend the rest of our money (i.e., His money that He lets us use) throughout the week.
Over time, I have read material that suggests that God’s direction is less about giving us a specific answer for every step, every word, and every decision. Instead, it seems that God guides us in the right direction, and then gives us more specific instructions from the Holy Spirit when necessary. However, no matter the granularity with which God directs our lives, or how much freedom we have to walk along the path, the main point that I gain from this is that we shouldn’t be so consumed with whether or not every minor decision is the exact right one, to the point where we miss the chance to actually live a life of love and service to Jesus!
So, if we have trouble hanging on to choices that are made for ourselves, rather than for Jesus, maybe we do need to put our smartphones into the offering plate – if only metaphorically. If you (and I) took those things that we struggle to yield to God, and mentally gave them to Him as an offering, maybe we would better remember to let Him direct what we do with them, and how we use them on a regular basis. In fact, for some things, we probably need to leave them there for a while, until it’s clear how (or if?) God wants us to pick them back up and use them for His glory.
Other than maybe a smartphone, there’s a good chance that you and I don’t share the exact same challenges in becoming a living sacrifice to God. However, together, we can call out our strongholds of resistance, and surrender control to God. Then, in the best part of all of this, we can watch how God chooses to use those elements of our lives for far greater things than we ever imagined, as we use them (perhaps with some pruning) for what He intended. Don’t miss the second part of that passage from Colossians, above!