Ten years ago pastors would ask as they closed a sermon: “Where has your heart been lately? Take a look at your checkbook and your calendar, and you’ll discover where your heart has been.”
Now hardly anyone has a checkbook or carries a calendar. Rather, try taking a look at your Google history, Facebook posts, Netflix queue, and online bank statement. The point is the same—take inventory on the topics of your conversations, thoughts, daydreams, and prayers.
What’s been consuming you lately?
Jesus got into a similar conversation about 2,000 years ago with a privileged and busy guy (see Matthew 19:16-26). People in the ancient world were always wondering what things to do and what things to avoid to make sure they were considered spiritually good with God. Religious figures were expected to have fresh insights to share with people on how to maintain “Like” status with God.
In this story a guy comes to Jesus and asks him what he must do to “get eternal life” and be a truly good person. Jesus initially took his question at face value and responded with a list: do this, don’t do that. But the man was interested in a deeper question. “I’ve done all that,” he said, “What do I still lack?”
Then Jesus goes for the jugular: “Sell everything you have and give it away to the poor. Then come and follow me.” The man walks away, crushed. Jesus exposed his heart.
Is Jesus saying that the best path to being a good person is giving away all of your money and possessions to the poor? Maybe—if that’s what he tells you specifically to do. But I think God is more interested in having a conversation with you and me about the things that consume our hearts, and helping us figure out how to sacrifice those things to find freedom, meaning, and impact.
What does that look like?
We’re invited to be deeply reflective and intentional about who we are and what we’re about, and Jesus’ life gives us snapshots of the things we would do if our hearts were like his. The pathway to get his heart is to be extremely intentional about sacrifice—to proactively train ourselves away from things that consume us and to reorient our everyday activities to activities that join with what God’s up to in the world. Here are some ideas:
Change how you spend your time when you travel (drive, walk, campus shuttle) or when you exercise. Instead of listening to your favorite Pandora station, download a book about injustice.
Think strategically about the 21+ meals you are going to eat this week and make a point to invite someone to a meal who you wouldn’t normally hang out with. Or fast from one meal per day and give that money to someone who can’t afford to eat.
Cut your social media time in half and spend that time reading articlesand learning about issues of injustice around the world.
Decide to use your few spare minutes throughout the day—time you might ordinarily spend worrying or planning or daydreaming—to memorize a passage of scripture, where Jesus talked about his heart for the poor.
Lent is a time to be deeply reflective about who we are and the trajectory of our souls. It’s a time to get rid of the junk, the excess, the self-centeredness, and what weighs us down. It's a time to re-think who we are and what we're about and to reconcile ourselves to the model and example of Jesus. This week, sacrifice what consumes you and reorient your everyday activities to things that will invite you to participate in God’s plan to bring change to the world.
Scott Schimmel is the Faith@Work ministry specialist for InterVarsity in San Diego and serves as a Gen Y leadership consultant and coach for churches, non-profit and for-profit organizations with Servant Leadership principles. He lives with his wife, son and daughter in north county San Diego.