We have become so enamored of and dependent upon our modern conveniences and creature comforts that in many cases, rather than freeing up our lives, they have enslaved us. For example, how many of us have not fallen prey to some measure of alarm upon realizing that we have left the house without our cell phone—a device that some twenty-five years ago was not even available to the general public? How did mankind manage to survive for six millennia without it? Sarcasm notwithstanding, if most of us are honest, we will acknowledge that many of the decisions we make are dictated by nothing more substantial than how they will affect our comfort. The practical reality of many of our lives is that we more closely emulate the motto of the fool’s “eat, drink, and be merry” than of the Lord’s admonition to resist laying up treasure for ourselves but to be “rich toward God” (Lk. 12:16-21).
Our tendency is almost to dismiss as hyperbole Paul’s admonition that “having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (I Tim. 6:8). But John’s gospel provides a remarkable vignette of the Lord Jesus exemplifying this attitude. Following an extended discourse during the Feast of Tabernacles, we read that “every man went unto his own house” (7:53). That seems an altogether normal and fitting thing to do at the end of the day. But the verse that follows says this: “Jesus went unto the mount of Olives” (8:1). The next verse indicates that this was not merely the scenic route home: “And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them” (8:2).
The contrast is stark. They had all returned to their homes for a warm evening meal and a comfortable night’s sleep in their own homes. They had all arisen refreshed and had come to the temple fortified with a wholesome breakfast. Our Lord apparently had spent the entire night on the Mount of Olives, alone, without meals, without shelter, without a pillow for his head, a mat to lie on, or any cover for comfort. And to any who might point to textual questions about this passage, we would point to Luke’s gospel: “And in the day time he was teaching in the temple; and at night he went out, and abode in the mount that is called the mount of Olives. And all the people came early in the morning to him in the temple, for to hear him” (21:37, 38).
To those who would point to the more primitive conditions of that age, I would only say that it has never been normal, much less pleasant, for humans to go for extended periods of time with little food and no shelter. The reality is that the Lord was dependent upon strangers for these basic necessities: “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Lk. 9:58). And the truth is that He willingly became poor for our sakes that we might receive His eternal riches.
The Bible does not suggest that we should seek to be martyrs, try to live monastic lives, or deliberately try to live in poverty and squalor. But it is clear that our Lord lived a life of conscious self-denial. And in the same chapter in which He declared Himself to have no home, He also declared: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall save it” (Lk. 9:23, 24). Self-denial is not a call to deliberately do without. After all, it is the Lord’s responsibility ultimately to provide for us. But it is a call to make decisions and choices for the glory of the Lord and the blessing of others rather than for our own advantage and according to our own desires. Nothing less befits the redeemed.
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