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Give It Away

I have been getting a lot of my theology from the Red Hot Chili Peppers lately. I’m not sure why, but whenever I hear one of their songs, I hear God. This voice keeps telling me, “Listen, this stuff is good.” Now, coming to Christ within an evangelical context has caused me a little pain with this new source of ideas. You see, I am not supposed to be getting my theology from a “secular” band and a very crude one at that. I would have been laughed at if I would have quoted the song I am about to for one of my papers in seminary. But here goes anyway.

Recently I was at a church meeting when the subject of money came up. It seems a lot of people have the idea that it doesn’t matter how much you have as long as you do the right thing with it. Something about that line of thinking just doesn’t fit with my understanding of things. Then a song popped in my head by you-know-who:

Give it away give it away give it away give it away now

I can’t tell if I’m a kingpin or a pauper

Greedy little people in a sea of distress

Keep your more to receive your less

Unimpressed by material excess

Love is free love me say hell yes

There’s a river born to be a giver

Keep you warm won’t let you shiver

His heart is never gonna wither

Come on everybody time to deliver

Give it away give it away give it away give it away now

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(From Blood Sugar Sex Magik, Warner Brothers Records 1991)

It seems that Jesus talked once about giving it all away. When Jesus met the Rich Young Ruler, He was asked what a person must do to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus answered very simply, “Give it away.” Now depending on whom you ask, there are different definitions of “it.” There are those who think that it’s okay to have a lot as long as you do “good” with what you have left over—after taking care of number one. Then there are those who aren’t sure what “it” really means, so they do nothing, confused and impotent to help anyone including themselves. Then there are those who just ignore the whole story and go about oblivious to the pain and suffering around them. However, a few actually understand Jesus to be saying that “it” is everything. Giving it away means to give everything away. Now, does this mean you go and find someone and hand them over the keys to your house and car? Well, maybe.

What it means for us is we are commanded to give away our place of privilege, our big house and five cars. Give away our 600+ credit rating for a life of service and sacrifice. Give away our image of the perfect family and lifestyle to allow another to partake in the bounty that we have been given. It means giving away ourselves to others in ways that cause us pain.

I remember once being asked to deliver a washer and dryer to a single woman. I rounded up a pickup truck and delivered the goods. When we got the appliances into her basement, we realized the givers had removed the hoses and power cords. This woman had no way to pay for them, I was broke myself, and my friend was wanting to get back to his family. So we left her on the porch with no way to use the gifts she had received.

For many of us, that is our understanding of giving it away. We give, but not everything. I’m sure the people in the nice suburban house where the appliances came from felt good about their gift when they went to bed that night, but the Holy Spirit was most likely bewildered. If we are to “give it away,” we should do just that. Giving things that aren’t all there so we can save a trip to the store or a little money just don’t add up in kingdom currency.

So what’s my point? Following Jesus takes all we are and have. A halfway commitment will result in a half-life. God has allowed us the opportunity to share ourselves with others, and we must be willing to get past our greed and fear and really give it all away. It is more than living simply; it is living sacrificially. It is living in ways that cost us something that we used to take for granted. It is living in ways that give away to others what our privilege and place have given us. Imagine a world where our first thought is what can I give away today, how can I give something or myself to someone so they can live an easier or better life than they did yesterday. Don’t walk away from Jesus muttering under your breath like that confused young man once did. Embrace Jesus’ challenge and do everything you can to follow His lead.

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