“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals.” Luke 10:4
Jesus doesn’t make it easy, does he? He warns his disciples that they are going out like lambs in the midst of wolves and then he says “no” to three things that might have made it easier for them to go go on their journeys.
“Carry no purse,” says Jesus. Having no money would have been a challenge, even in Jesus’ time. If one remained in one’s home area, it would have been easier; there would be family members, friends, upon whose hospitality one could call. No matter how reluctant those visited may have been, there was a duty to show care towards people who were part of one’s family. But once the disciples were outside their home area, how would they cope? If they wanted to eat, if they wanted somewhere to sleep, where would they go if they had no money? In the story of the Good Samaritan Jesus suggests that even people who had been attacked and robbed along the road could not expect to be kept for nothing. What would people think of them, travelling with no money, they would seem like beggars. The disciples would have to depend on faith, trust that they would meet someone who would feed them, trust that they would meet someone who would give them somewhere to sleep. Without money, they would have no choice other than to have faith.
What does it say to us when Jesus says “carry no purse?” Few, if any Christians, would venture out today with no money at all, but do we become too concerned with money? Do we spend so much time storing up money for the future that we have no time to be the people God wants us to be today? What would people think of us if we had no money? “Carry no purse,” says Jesus, how have we felt if we have ever left our purse or wallet at home? How would we feel about deliberately leaving it behind?
Jesus doesn’t just expect the disciples to take no money with them, he also forbids them to take any possessions: they are to carry “no bag.” The bag he talks about is called a “pera” in the Greek in which the New Testament was written; it was a small leather bag that was tied around the waste, it could carry no more than a few bits and pieces, but even it was prohibited. What would people think of them? Travelling with no bag, they would seem like beggars. The disciples must have wondered how they could go out not only with no money, but without even a bag in which to carry a few important things. They would be totally dependent on what others might give them.
Travelling light is a challenge for us. The low fares airlines have taught us how to travel without an accumulation of baggage, they have taught us how to travel with only a small case or backpack, but imagine if we had to leave that behind. How well would we cope if all we had was the clothes we were wearing? What would people think of us? Jesus would have asked us about how much we were attached to material things, he would have asked how important they were in our lives. If we had to leave behind all our possessions, would we go?
No purse, no bag, and “no sandals;” it was not that the disciples were going to go barefoot, just that they were to carry no spare footwear. The roads in Jesus’ time were rough and dusty, away from the few main roads used by the Roman armies, they would have been no more than tracks. Walking those roads would have taken a toll on any shoes and the cheap sandals the disciples would have worn were not the most durable of footwear. To head out on a journey with nothing into which to change, no other sandals to wear if the thong of one snapped or wore through, would have seemed a difficult thing to do. Having broken shoes would not only bring discomfort, what would people think of them? Travelling with no shoes, they would seem like beggars. The disciples would have realized that not only must they leave behind money and possessions, but even what they wore would be reduced to a minimum.
How would we cope if we had to face the challenge the disciples faced and had to simply travel with nothing more than what we are wearing? How many clothes have we at home? How many pairs of shoes? How many things have we that we never wear, perhaps even things that we have never worn? How much do we have that we simply do not need? Is our concern with what we need to wear, or with what people will think of us? If we had only the clothes we are wearing, how would we cope?
“Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals,” Jesus’ words a severe challenge to the disciples, what do they say to us?