Loose Grip, Open Hand

Jesus’ commission to His small cadre of apostles was for them to make disciples of all nations and teach them “to observe [obey] all that I have commanded you.” (Mat 28.20, ESV)

Jesus issued scores of commands in the gospels, and those are only the ones that are recorded for us. Are believers supposed to teach all of them? What about the ones that were given to specific people and don’t even seem to apply to us?

I was thinking about this just this morning–in the shower, of all places–and the example that came to mind was Jesus’ command to the law-keeping rich young man, “…sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Mat 19.21) Nowhere is that command repeated in the New Testament, and there is no indication anywhere in the Scriptures that this is what God requires of us.

Then I thought of Acts 2, and the astounding events on the Day of Pentecost and the weeks and months following it. Luke tells us that the 3,000-plus believers in Jerusalem “…devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers…And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” (Act 2.42,45, ESV)

Jesus had told his watching disciples after the incident with the rich young man that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. It was a lesson about devotion and priorities, about materialism and idolatry, about the recognition that what we possess we don’t really possess at all. It is all God’s, and must be held in a loose grip and given with an open hand. It represents no spiritual merit whatsoever. A heavenly home cannot be purchased with earthly currency.

As astonished as they were by Jesus’ words–they asked Him, “Who then can be saved?” (Mat 19.25, ESV)–the apostles evidently learned their lesson. Just a few weeks later they were teaching those new Jewish Christians in Jerusalem how to think about their own possessions–how to give, not grasp.

To me, this is a striking vignette of Great Commission living.


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