I have been doing this church thing for a lot of years. I have sung hundreds of songs over the four decades or so that I have been a follower of Jesus. Some lyrics moved me to deep worship of God. Some times I really meant what I was singing. Other times I was singing through the motions while thinking about when the kick off was going to happen.
One song has always made me uncomfortable. The song was put to music by the legendary George Beverly Shea in 1932. The words were a poem written by Mrs.Rhea Miller in 1922.
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.
Can I really say that I would rather have Jesus than silver or gold? Maybe my retirement fund will make that decision for me. Do I mean it when I sing that I’d rather be led by his nail pierced hand? Am I prepared to make Jesus more than an “activity” in my busy life? What would I have said if I was the young rich man described in Matthew? Here is the text from The Message.
Another day, a man stopped Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” Jesus said, “Why do you question me about what’s good? God is the One who is good. If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you.”
The man asked, “What in particular?”
Jesus said, “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.” The young man said, “I’ve done all that. What’s left?”
His response has always surprised me. I think I would have begged for mercy after Jesus detailed that list. But the young man thought he was doing just fine. And then Jesus exposed his heart.
“If you want to give it all you’ve got,” Jesus replied, “go sell your possessions; give everything to the poor. All your wealth will then be in heaven. Then come follow me.”
That was the last thing the young man expected to hear. And so, crest-fallen, he walked away. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and he couldn’t bear to let go.
I have held on tight to a lot of things. As I get older I wonder why.
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God’s kingdom? Let me tell you, it’s easier to gallop a camel through a needle’s eye than for the rich to enter God’s kingdom.”
The disciples were staggered. “Then who has any chance at all?”
Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
I can do that. I can trust God. I have no choice because I have a long and spectacular track record of not being able to live this journey on my own ability. I always fall on grace. The song continues.
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause;
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause;
I’d rather have Jesus than world-wide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.
Given the sales of my books I am pretty safe from the world-wide fame snare. But I do crave applause if I am not careful.
He’s all that my hungering spirit needs,
I’d rather have Jesus and let Him lead.
Perhaps the uncertainty in the world will cause all of us to evaluate our dependence on Christ. I hope that I will continue to grow in my desire to echo Paul and his words to the Phillipians.
“What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.”
So can I sing the words of this classic hymn and mean it? I am slowly, slowly, slowly getting closer.
Waking Up Slowly is a 21 day journey to become more connected to God and others. Check it out!