In the Old Testament, people had to bring sacrifices and offerings to the Temple as part of their worship of God. For many, their faith was about being obedient to the Law and commands of God so that they would not face His judgement and wrath. Many Christians still live their faith out in the same manner. But in my journey, I have discovered my relationship with God is much different. Yes, it has had its ups and downs, but overall, it has continued to grow and the focus has been more on seeing God as who He and experiencing His blessings rather than what focusing on what I do for Him.
After working with youth for over three decades, I have used a myriad of games to teach a lesson or just have fun. One of the most fun games we played was a game called Bigger and Better. You probably played the same game when you were young too. In this game, everybody starts with something of little value, like a penny (when we used to have them), and then everybody heads out into the neighbourhood to see what they can it trade for. You knock on people’s doors and ask if they would be willing to trade something for the penny, and then you go to the next door with whatever they traded you. The goal is to come back with a bigger, better thing than you started out with. Some of the things they collected over the years included a bread maker, a washing machine, a couch and even bunk beds! The bigger it is, the better it is.
The same is true with God. Seeing and experiencing God as bigger and better than anything this world has to offer puts Him and everything else in its rightful place. As Matthew 6:33 tells us, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
I remember reading this quote from C. S. Lewis where he says, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
That quote reminds me of a passage in the Bible about a young guy who had a lot of money. He was a good guy, very religious, kept the commandments and the whole bit. Jesus told this upstanding guy that if he really wanted to know God, he needed to sell all his possessions and follow Him. The man was sad about the exchange. Like me, he liked his stuff, but he liked Jesus too. Ultimately, though, that young man decided he had worked too hard for what he had, whatever he had to trade to get to Jesus was just too important, and what Jesus had to offer was just too intangible. So he chose to keep his stuff rather than follow Jesus.
Jesus does not have this conversation to shame the rich young ruler. The challenge that comes into sharp relief is whether we are willing to give up all we have to follow Him, to know God. Are we willing to trade up? It is a question worth asking because the answer will shape your life one way or the other.
We have all given up something at one time or another. At first, it always feels like a huge sacrifice to give up what we have. To Jesus, though, it is no sacrifice at all. Think about it from His perspective. He comes from heaven, where He has an amazing love relationship with the Father, which, by its nature, is the most beautiful existence any person could have. And He offers that to anybody willing to let go of whatever is giving them a false sense of security. Why would anybody not make that trade? Jesus is basically saying, “Look, none of the stuff you have is going to last, including you. You have only got about a penny’s worth of life now. Come and trade up, come follow Me, and you can know God.” In that sense, Jesus is not requesting a sacrifice at all. He is asking us to play Bigger and Better, where we give up ourselves and end up with Him.
It is important to note here that Jesus did not ask everybody to give up all their stuff. This is something He asked of the rich young ruler because He wanted to teach the young man that he was not as holy as he thought he was. He wanted to teach the young man that he still needed God’s help, to look at what he had and decide whether he would rather have that, or trade-up and have what Jesus is offering: a life with Him.
Actually, the real game of Bigger and Better that Jesus is playing with us usually is not about money or possessions or even our hopes. It is usually about our pride.
He asks if we will give up that thing we are so proud of, that thing we believe causes us to matter in the eyes of the world, and give it up to follow Him. He is asking us, “Will you take what you think defines you, leave it behind, and let Me define who you are instead?”
The cool thing about taking Jesus up on His offer is that whatever controls you does not anymore. People who used to be obsessed about becoming famous no longer care whether anybody knows their name. People who used to want power are willing to serve. People who used to chase money freely give it away. People who used to beg others for acceptance are now strong enough to give love.
When we find our identity in Him and get our security from Christ, we no longer have to look for it in the world, and that is a pretty good trade.
The last church I pastored, we went through a very difficult financial time. There was a month where they could not afford to pay us. Although it would be tough financially for that month, we were okay with it. But on the day it was announced, God did a miracle. From two sources, God provided what my salary would have been. We were overwhelmed by the blessing. In response, we gave most of it away.
Why? We did not need it because we had already made the decision in our hearts and minds, we would be okay. We were willing to exchange for it for what was bigger and better. Our nothing turned into a full blessing which turned into an opportunity to serve and bless God. This is how Jesus sees the world and how we should.
Religious people say that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. I agree. But there is more. Jesus invites us to stand at the door of His house and do some knocking too. And when He opens a door, He wants us to bring all of the faith we have to Him, even if it’s just a penny’s worth. And He promises that He will trade up with us – because He Himself is what we have the chance to trade for. And what we will have to give in exchange for knowing Him is everything we have accumulated during our lives and are standing on the porch holding on to.
So let ask yourselves this question: “What is it you are holding onto and need to release in order to get what is Bigger and Better?” The promise of God is whatever it is, He is much more. Let go of whatever you are holding and embrace the Savior and you will experience life in a bigger and better way.