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I saw a skit on YouTube where a group of Christians clasped each other’s hands in devout prayer, asking God to alleviate the suffering of the poor. To their surprise, the heavens open, and God’s voice booms above in a shower of golden light. “Go, sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor.”

The Christians look at each other in shock. One asks, “you mean like, all our possessions?”


They look at each other again. One man looks at his comrades, reading the room. He said, “oh, oh this… THIS HOUSE IS HAUNTED!” He makes eye contact with the woman next to him. On cue, she lets out a classic 50s horror flick scream.

In the next scene, they are all fleeing the house as fast as possible. One person stands by the door, wheeling their arm, urging, ”Go, go, go!” The golden light quietly fills the emptying room. God’s voice echoes: “Oh. I see what they did there.”

I see it too.

I do it too, I bet.

At this junction in my life, my quest for financial independence feels as if it directly clashes with a Christian, selfless “hold loosely” attitude towards material wealth. It is easier to check good deeds off a predetermined list than to be genuinely self-sacrificial. How do I cultivate a generous mindset that doesn’t guilt trip me into good deeds?

3 things I remind myself.

  • People are made in the image of God. And I don’t mean this in a “we all look different but God made us all” kind of way. I mean, other people’s problems should be real to me. God is the author of my life. But God is authoring other people’s lives around me, and God is really invested in those stories too. So other people’s struggles should be just as relevant. The resources I’m hoarding for me might be meant to star in someone else’s story.
  • Being generous is not a boring task. It’s a sweet adventure. I have to switch my mindset from this sounds like a “you” problem to “time to do some creative problem solving.” What resources do I have that could help in some way? Time? Money? Influence? Advice?
  • Stop overthinking it. Radical forgiveness paired with generosity is incredibly moving. If I show up, listen with empathy, and then give what I can, it’s meaningful.

Which brings me to the conclusion that sometimes, the worst part of materialism to me, is the mental effort of figuring out the boundaries: Do I have too many worldly possessions? Do I need to give everything up? Is this the correct amount to tithe?

The only reason I ask these questions sometimes, is so I can figure out where the acceptable limit is. if I give this much, I’m entitled to keep this much. I try to draw boundaries as easy answers. They allow me to come to God with a guarded heart: ready to serve if the opportunity fits my boundaries. Ready to declare the “house is haunted” if it feels like a stretch.

But the easy answers are not the goal, and frankly, it’s not the most exciting. Christ-like living is the goal. Being generous is not about me. And that should be exhilarating.

Olivia Mason

Olivia loves the creative process, so she studies graphic design & writing. It is why she is so curious about the artwork & designs made by others. She loves the fresh smell of soil when repotting her plants, the crisp smell of paper when reading, and the sultry smell of smoke from a campfire. She enjoys hands-on artwork like collage or painting and listening to 50s jazz ballads and lo-fi mixtapes while she creates. Currently, Olivia is working in Grand Rapids, Michigan while she finishes her degree at Calvin University.


  • Eric Van Dyken says:

    Olivia, this is both challenging and encouraging. Thanks for offering it.

  • What magnificent and challenging writing. Thank you for this gift.

  • Daniel Meeter says:

    It’s that simple, indeed, hauntingly so.

  • Rodney Haveman says:

    Thank you for the challenge. The text referenced has always challenged me. Do we read it literally or figuratively? What’s the difference? I don’t want to read it literally, so alas I never have. If I did, then undoubtedly, I would join the poor, as I would have nothing to my name, which brings me to reading it figuratively. It seems to me that one point of studying the Word is to practice seeing ourselves in another. Can I see myself in Abraham, Moses, David, Jesus, Paul, “the poor,” etc.? And if I can, what does it mean for how I live? I think it means Scripture invites me to see our common humanity, but maybe even more. As you said, the deep connection between “the poor” and me demands that I am my “siblings” keeper.
    Maybe I will never know this fully unless I literally sell everything and become one with “the poor.” I think Jesus knew this, and it scares me. If there is something more than literalism in this teaching though, I wonder what we are called “to sell” in our current polarized world (in and out of the church). What must I empty myself of to see myself in my siblings “on the other side of our divide?”

  • Bruce Buursma says:

    Another splendid and bracing contribution to the RJ, Olivia!

  • Henry Hess says:

    Thank you! I also struggle with boundaries.
    Oh, and where can I find that Youtube skit?

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