Evelyn Adams achieved the American dream: she won not one but two lotteries. In both 1985 and 1986 she won the New Jersey lottery to the tune of $US5.4 million. According to the Consumer Price Index, that’s equivalent to $US10.5 million today.
Today, Evelyn Adams comments that, “Winning the lottery isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.” Today the money is all gone and Adams lives in a trailer.
“I won the American dream but I lost it, too. It was a very hard fall. It’s called rock bottom,” says Adams. “Everybody wanted my money. Everybody had their hand out. I never learned one simple word in the English language—‘No.’ I wish I had the chance to do it all over again. I’d be much smarter about it now.”
Sure, Evelyn Adams gave her money away, but she’ll also admit that hedging her bets, she wasted most of her money on the slot machines in Atlantic City.
Jesus And The American Dream
Despite the fact that we make more money than 90% of the world, Americans are fascinated with becoming independently wealthy. Turn on your TV on a Saturday morning, and you’ll see dozens of programs promising to teach you how to become America’s next millionaire.
It’s the American Dream: to live in such a way that we don’t need anyone else. To do whatever we want and control our destinies.
But is that what we really want? Is that what we really need?
A man ran up to Jesus and, fell on his knees and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus rattled off a few commandments: Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Then, with eyes full of love, Jesus said to the earnest man, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The man was devastated because he was quite wealthy. Slowly he walked away from Jesus.
Jesus then turned to his disciples. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!…It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Astonished, the disciples looked at each other and said “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
The Jesus Dream
Over the centuries, pastors, priests, and theologians have debated the meaning of this passage in Mark 10:17-31 (which also appears in Matthew 19 and Luke 18).
Does this mean that we’re all supposed to live in poverty? Is Jesus calling us to sell everything and give it to the poor? It’s passages like these that motivated people like Tony Campolo to say “You can’t be a follower of Jesus and drive a BMW at the same time.”
If all of us sold everything and lived in poverty, how would anyone pay their bills? Is God opposed to the wealthy? Are we all supposed to be homeless? Sounds a little unreasonable.
Other people say, “In this passage, Jesus is addressing the man’s god. The man was a good person, but his riches were standing in the way of following Jesus. So God wants us to abandon whatever it is that prevents us from following him completely.”
I agree with that, but it seems to subjective, and it doesn’t seem to reach far enough.
Selling Everything Means Selling Everything
So what is Jesus calling this man to—and what is he calling us to?
Jesus told the man to “Sell everything” Everything. Selling out to Jesus goes beyond our possessions. It means letting go of all attachments and attaching ourselves solely to him.
It means pledging allegiance solely to him. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with the Pledge of Allegiance. I understand the intention of it, but I trip over the words. I can’t pledge allegiance to the flag when I’ve pledged allegiance to Jesus because we can pledge our allegiance to only one person, entity, or thing.
Selling out means giving him our darkest secret, our dream of a comfortable life, our rights, reputation, comfort, desire for approval. It means giving up all dignity, propriety, respect, coolness, habits, addictions. It means attaching our self-worth to what Jesus says about us–and not the opinion of our parents, friends, or spouse.
Selling out is kind of a misnomer because we really own nothing. Everything we have already belongs to God.
Selling Out Places Us In The Position For God To Use Us
Deep down, I know this is the place God wants to bring me. The full awareness of my poverty-stricken condition, that I have nothing. Naked I came into this world and naked I depart.
And when I sell out, I can hear him saying, “I have you right where I want you. Now I can use you.”
Shovel my neighbors’ driveway after a big snowstorm? Okay, I’ll shovel. I’m not above that.
Make time to listen to my irritating co-worker whose life is falling apart? Yeah, I’ll do that.
Risk being transparent about my allegiance to him. I can do that.
Years ago, people used a different word for selling out: consecration. It means devoting something solely to God.
When the great 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody was a young man, his mentor challenged him, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him.”
D.L. Moody’s response: “By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”
Oswald Chambers wrote, “Jesus Christ does not claim any of our possessions. One of the most subtle errors is that God wants our possessions. He does not; they are not of any use to Him. He does not want my property, He wants myself.”
What would your life look like if you sold out to Jesus?
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. For him, selling out means taking more risks to share his faith, and working less while trusting God more with his finances.