by Thom Mollohan
In an age characterized by massive exchange of information (or of false information as much of it proves to be), it’s a necessity to be able to multitask just to navigate the complexity and perplexity of today’s dizzying pace. To a degree, there is some practicality in being able to engage in more than one experience simultaneously. However, it is a huge mistake to believe that we can multitask at living a life of faith while also living according to the whims of a world that marches to its own agenda.
To do so is like being called to live in a new and wonderful land, but settling for living merely along its borders, in a sort of hinterland. In this remote and underdeveloped part of the country, we celebrate the light and the glory of the new kingdom from afar, while still held captive by the enamoring boasts of the old life.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus met such a man who queried, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 ESV). Jesus countered with a question of His own intended to give pause to a quick and easy solution to the man’s dilemma of wanting to live in two worlds simultaneously. “Why do you ask Me about what is good? There is only One who is good” (verse 17a).
The very fact that Jesus asked this question is evidence of the uncanny ability Jesus has for seeing into the heart of a person and knowing how to deftly tackle the idols which hinder coming fully into God’s light. It is as if Jesus asked, “Are you willing to acknowledge My authority? Will you truly hear and receive what I am about to say to you?” The next thing He actually said to this searching soul was what all shallow seekers already know to do. “If you would enter life, keep the commandments” (verse 17b). But there was the rub. The man had already been keeping them. Well, he had at the very least been keeping them externally. He had obeyed them with his hands and possibly with even his bank account so far as the Law required. Yet, he was unsatisfied. He was unfulfilled. He was seeing from a distance that glorious light glowing and was hungry for what it represented, yet he was merely in the margins of the realm and had not fully disclaimed citizenship of his old country. “The young man said to Him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (verses 20-21). When Jesus used the word perfect, He meant whole, complete or fulfilled.
What a quandary for that young man! He wanted the joy and peace of Jesus’ life, but found himself forced to make a choice. He had to either surrender the few places he had reserved for his own comforts, so that he could run unencumbered and headlong into the life God had would have for him; or he had to choose to continue as he had been doing and never completely cross over into the land of promise. “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (verse 22).
It evidently was too hard of a choice. In the moment of crisis, when forced to choose between continuing as he had for years—never quite existing in the light—or denouncing his citizenship of the world by surrendering the one thing he loved most, he chose his stuff. His love for stuff won out. Keep in mind that owning possessions is not sinful; but those possessions had become an idol to him. By loving him as the Savior has loved each of us, Jesus invited him to enter into the lovely meadows and fruitful groves of spiritual abundance. Such a life in Christ is offered freely to all those who whole-heartedly respond to His call. By calling him to give his things to the poor, Jesus invited him to a new life with new purpose and new meaning.
Today, the call to follow has not changed for those who are hungry for more than the mere phantoms of joy and pleasure which this world offers. We must still choose Him over pleasures and comforts; we must still decide between pleasing Him and forgoing popularity; and we must still acknowledge Him as Lord, which means we must obey Him rather than following philosophies of the world that are contrary to God’s Word.
But many of us will continue to dwell sorrowfully knowing that we are missing still the glory and gain of the kingdom of God while we remain on the borders imprisoned in the hinterlands of heaven, chained still to our old lives. Though we attend church and do our good deeds, there are idols in our lives which still hold the place of supremacy and which still hold our allegiance.
Do not settle for the hinterlands, beloved. Fully surrender your life to the loving Savior and see if He will not fully satisfy your soul’s deepest needs. He invites you to come in and desires for you to be filled with the joy and peace of His presence.
Thom Mollohan and his family have ministered in southern Ohio the past 16 ½ years and is the author of The Fairy Tale Parables and Crimson Harvest. He is the pastor of Pathway Community Church and may be reached for comments or questions by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 thoughts on “Living in the Hinterland”
Multitasking God and mammon is indeed dangerous. While the rich man says he has kept the commandments, and you say he might have done so outwardly, it was the last commandment against covetousness that he was wrong about. Continuing to keep his treasured possessions, at the expense of the poor, was his dilemma. Many Americans also have (coveted and collected) too many treasured (expensive) possessions, and what Jesus told the rich man is basically repeated for all his disciples in Lk. 12:33.
Good thoughts for going into the Christmas season. We should be asking ourselves, from a spiritual perspective, if we really need to get that upgrade to the newest gadget. Thanks for your comment!