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The Power of Enough

By Michael Roop

This is part two in a five-part series on the lifestyle of Jesus. To catch up on previous posts in this series, click here.

The movement was gaining steam. Jesus was emerging as a famous speaker and miracle worker. Momentum was building, and the time seemed near to capitalize on that momentum and spring into greater degrees of growth. That’s when Jesus was approached by a scribe, an expert theologian/lawyer who was highly regarded and highly influential among the people Jesus was trying to reach. At this stage of the ministry, bagging a scribe would provide a level of credibility among the religious power brokers that His movement would need in order to achieve sustained growth. And this scribe is freely offering to follow Jesus, no demands or strings attached.

That’s what makes Jesus’ response so downright confusing. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Between the lines, Jesus is explaining to this presumably wealthy man that the material cost of joining this movement is much, much higher than he is willing to pay. And, as far as we know, the scribe does not become a follower of Jesus.

The theological significance to Jesus’ reply is multi-layered to be sure, but for the sake of this series, I was most intrigued by what this moment tells us about the day-to-day lifestyle of Jesus. What does it mean that Jesus spent the entirety of His earthly ministry effectively homeless? What does it mean that, upon sending His disciples to preach the gospel, He instructed them not to acquire any extra material possession for their journeys (Matt. 10:9-10)? What does it mean that Jesus tells the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and give away the proceeds (Matt. 19:16-30)? What does it mean that Jesus instructs His followers to respond to the anxieties about tomorrow with faith in God’s provision, and not in storing up treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-34)?

All this leads me to conclude that a radical material contentment is key to experiencing life in the easy yoke, a life defined by rest for our souls. The Apostle Paul picks up this conversation in a letter written to Timothy, his young protegé. “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world” (1 Tim. 6:6-7). This statement is at least as countercultural now as it was then, particularly in a time when billions of dollars each year are spent on the subtle art of creating lasting discontentment in us. Every video, every podcast episode, every roadside billboard is aimed at stirring your affections for the things of this world. And make no mistake, we are deeply formed by our sojourn in such a place.

Some counter-formational measures are long overdue. Disciplining ourselves to express gratitude for what we have in the face of a newer, shinier, bigger version is a good step. Looking at our possessions as a means for generosity rather than comfort is another. Embracing a life of material simplicity for the sake of gospel formation. Jesus is inviting us to move beyond what we consider to be moral toward formative practices that shape us into the kind of person who is content in the presence and provision of God.

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