The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. (Genesis 22:10)
God let Abraham go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, than forbade him lay a hand on the boy. The old man lifted his head to respond to the Voice and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was wholly surrendered, utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his fear son and God had taken it from him.
God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked toward the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus, He practiced an economy of time and means. It hurt cruelly, but it was effective.
I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he owned before was still his to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, goods of every sort. He also had his wife and friends, and best of all he had Issac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned in the school of renunciation. The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.
After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words “my” and “mine” never again had the same meaning for Abraham. The sense of possession which they connote was gone from his heart. Things had been cast out forever. They had become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them. The world said, “Abraham is rich,” but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.
Those who have attempted to live out the life of possessing have approached it in various ways. Monks have taken vows of poverty, individuals have sold all their possessions and lived a life of simple poverty. Others rejecting the idea of possessing nothing have chosen to acquire much interpreting the scripture that says, “he became poor so that we might become rich.” And both these groups have missed completely the point of this principle. There is a vast difference between giving up and giving away. Tozer points out to us and the scripture bears it out that Abraham giving up his most prized possession to God, his son, in no was was giving him away. He may have felt that he was giving him away up to the point that the Lord provided the ram in the bush, but God was not asking him to give Issac away but to give him up.
This is the blessed life: to enjoy all that we have access to but to possess nothing. Jesus reveals this kind of living when he says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven….” and “For what does it benefit a man to gain the whole world [with all its pleasures], and forfeit his soul? 37 For what will a man give in exchange for his soul and eternal life [in God’s kingdom]”
Often we have this idea that those who have great wealth are the only ones that are possessed by possessions but even the homeless are very possessive of their bag or shopping cart. It’s not the amount of possessions but the power they hold over us that is at question. Abraham is considered to be one of the world’s wealthiest men according to world standards, but after the encounter with God on Mount Moriah, Abraham owned nothing for he gave it all up to God. This is what full surrender means. Giving it all up to God.
I’m grateful for all the blessings of God. Though I’m far from being wealthy, I am abundantly blessed and have the privilege to have access and use of a lot of things. The litmus test of full surrender is whether I can lose these things without the loss of them destroying my peace and joy. I believe God desires for us to enjoy all that life provides for us in the same way He desired Abraham to enjoy all he had and especially to enjoy the son that had been a special gift from God. I believe God saw in Abraham an elevating of Issac to the level of idolatry and God in His wisdom and grace brought Abraham to the place of possessing nothing and yet owning it all. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and ALL these things shall be added unto you.” Possession is a matter of priority and importance. If we place our relationship, our possessing God and being possessed by God as our priority and if we make that the most important thing in life, then we are free to enjoy all that God has blessed us with. But if our trust, our confidence our hope is in what we possess whether that is youth, strength, ability, job or career and things then we have missed the blessedness of possessing nothing. The beauty of possessing nothing compared to having possessions is a matter of responsibility. When I give up my possessions to God and own nothing, I get to enjoy the things that are available but God holds the responsibility of keeping them. This means that I go to sleep at night without worrying about the safe keeping for I know that God will keep what I’ve given to Him. On the other hand what I possess, I’m responsible for and so I always have to see to their safekeeping and that causes me worry and fear. I have no doubt that Abraham had already entrusted God with his wealth. The story of him and Lot dividing the land bears this put. I believe that although Abraham enjoyed having Isaac as his son, he worried everyday about losing him. It’s hard to really enjoy something if you’re afraid you will lose it. So God in His grace brings Abraham to the place of releasing the possession of Issac and facing the task of giving him up so that Abraham could enjoy the blessing of possessing nothing and yet enjoying everything. This is what God desires for us: to possess nothing and yet enjoy everything. Why is this so important? Whatever you have given to God, anyone who wants to take it away, including Satan, must ask His permission. Whatever you possess you have to guard. I’ve learned to live this way and may I tell you that it’s liberating. I’ve lost things over the years but God has more than supplied back and the sense of loss was less intense for I had already given up possession in my heart. I’m thankful for all I have but I’m most thankful for who has me!
Dr. John Thompson