the confiscation of your possessions

Hebrews 10:34 haunts me. Writing to Jewish believers scattered throughout the Roman empire, the anonymous writer of this enigmatic letter calls on believers to avoid sin and thus fall into the judgment of God, but to “remember the earlier days” when they suffered greatly for their faith. Among the injustices which they endured was “the confiscation of your possessions.” But what really gets me about this verse is the notion that these ancient believers “accepted with joy the confiscation of your possessions.” Did you catch that? They were happy to have their stuff confiscated! Would I be able to do the same?

Okay, so maybe they weren’t exactly happy. But they were joyful, even as the authorities and others forced their way into their homes, took their stuff, and in many cases booted them to the curb and seized their homes, too. Would I be able to be joyful – even if I’m not happy – in such a situation?

You see, it’s not just about whether I feel joy in tough situations. It’s about my priorities. Namely, if my priority is Jesus, then giving up stuff – even important or expensive stuff – for Him should never really impact my joy. But if my priority is the stuff, then there is no way I will ever really be able to realize what these original readers were able to do.

So the question is really one of self-reflection. Do I love Jesus so much that I will joyfully surrender my stuff for His cause?

I would like to say yes, but the truth is, quite often, it’s a hard thing to do. I mean, giving up some of my stuff is trivial. It wouldn’t bother me a whole lot if someone came in and swiped one of my coats. I have enough coats that I could probably still stay warm. Or half the stuff in the kitchen that I don’t use anyway. Even some of the big-ticket items that I have wouldn’t bother me too much. If someone took one of our cars, it would bother me, but I truly think I could still accept it with joy (if it was my wife, and the car in question was her new one, though…). But what if it was my TV? What if it was my cell phone? What if it was one of my computers (yes, you read that right)?

The thing that compels me to ask these questions is this: recently, a friend needed a phone and a computer. I had an extra cell phone and an extra computer sitting on my kitchen counter. But when they mentioned their need, I found myself hesitating to even offer the stuff. If I have a hard time offering totally extra stuff that I in no way need to a friend who could certainly use them, how would I react to someone taking them from me because I’m a believer?

I don’t think I like the answer to that question.

So what is my priority? Well, I am pleased to report that I did offer the phone and computer to the friend in need, hard as it was. A couple of weeks later, they returned them because they no longer needed them (although I tried to make very clear that they were theirs as long as they needed them). And I was honestly joyful to do it. I don’t know if I was happy, exactly. But I was joyful. So even as I work on this, I guess that there is hope. But certainly, it is something I need to work on!

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