In the beginning…
“when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked, but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go” (John 21:18 JB). And go I must, and the simple, straight words of the truth we read in scripture, overlaid with the world’s demands, were almost choked to death in me. Yet here I am, having survived my middle years, and ready again to live the life of discipleship, ready and willing again to live on nothing.
What is this nothing? The paradox is that it’s the opposite of what people usually mean by nothing, that is, nihilism. Even “nothing” in the scriptures usually means this kind of lifeless, deadening unreality, or its agents, elilim as the Hebrews call them. When I think of how to live on nothing, that’s not what I’m thinking of. Certainly, in the book of that title, the theme is how to live in a moneyless way, making use of resources that are free, costless. That is part of it, of course. But what I think of when I hear the phrase how to live on nothing is something different.
“You received without charge, give without charge” (Matthew 10:8 JB). It costs us nothing to have a welcoming and friendly spirit, to meet everyone and to treat everyone as if they were in fact Christ coming to us. It costs us little or nothing to help others when we see that they need it but are ashamed to ask. It costs us nothing to graciously withdraw our hand when we see our interference would cause more harm than good. It is free to let another go ahead of us, or to have the last piece of anything, even if we must sometimes go without, because what we receive in the action of not receiving for ourselves outweighs all earthly benefits, letting us have a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom.
When I consider how hard people work at trying to be successful, how much they slave and deny themselves wrongly for the accumulation of wealth, not gathering for others, but for show, and how they will quickly lose everything in a heartbeat, or the lack thereof, having no time for acts of kindness, not knowing the joy of welcoming others into their homes and lives, it’s a wonder to me how strong people can make themselves against the opening of the door that Christ is knocking at. But the words of scripture are always true, and we fulfill them all, whether we live for God or apart from Him.
How to live on nothing? I never think of it, it just happens when I’m not looking. Never has poverty felt so rich, when we give away that which the world despises yet which can purchase the whole world for God, if we only dare spend it.