Melding the American lifestyle with following Jesus

Q. My husband and I live relatively modestly by American standards, are conscious of the amount of resources we use and tithe 10 percent. However, I realize that even doing so we are still living in extreme luxury compared to most people in the world.

In the Gospel, Jesus talks of embracing poverty and leaving all possessions behind to follow Him. I feel guilty about having so much, but I also feel that if my husband and I gave up further luxuries (e.g., a computer or a car), it would limit our ability to maintain our jobs, keep contact with friends and family, engage in volunteer activities, go to church, etc.

So, is it possible to follow Jesus in America while living a somewhat "normal" American lifestyle? - A reader in Indianapolis

A. The biblical passage to which you refer is found in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).

A rich young man approaches Jesus and asks what he needs to do to be saved. Jesus recites to him the commandments, and when the man says that he has indeed followed them, Jesus suggests that he take one further step: to sell all that he has and give the proceeds to the poor, and then come and follow Christ.

Endless commentary has been written about these words and whether they were an invitation or a command. I believe that they were an invitation, and I would argue in particular from Matthew's version (19:21), which has Jesus saying, "If you wish to be perfect ..."

Also, when Zacchaeus the tax collector in Jericho was so taken by Christ that he pledged to give away "half" of his possessions and to repay fourfold anyone he had defrauded, Jesus was obviously pleased and said that salvation had come that day to Zacchaeus' house.

So I do not believe that every Christian is bound to live in abject poverty, although Christ encourages such a choice, and many of His disciples over the centuries have made that choice.

But all Christians are bound to reflect continually on their lifestyle and to examine whether they are doing as much as they might for those who have been blessed with less.

This does not mean that you have to give up your job or your computer or that you can abandon your responsibility to raise and educate your children. It has more to do with where your ultimate loyalty lies - and that should not be in material possessions Luke says in 12:34, "Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be."

From the description of your current lifestyle, I believe that you and your husband are surely faithful disciples of Jesus.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015