“Take nothing for the journey, neither walking stick, nor sack, nor food, nor money, and let no one take a second tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there and leave from there” (Lk 9:2-5).
Jesus has some peculiar conditions for his disciples when he sends them out on mission: take nothing.
Not a walking stick for defense, sack for extra materials, food for nourishment, money to barter with, or second tunic for comfort. He does not equip them with the necessities for life; he does not protect them with comforts and safeties and assurances. He sends them out with nothing.
At first glance, this might seem counterproductive. Wouldn’t they be more effective ministers if they didn’t have to focus on their livelihood and could devote themselves entirely to the mission? Won’t the anxiety of trying to stay alive distract them from doing the task at hand? Surely, we say, we cannot do anything if our safety is in question, and so our first task must always be to shore up for ourselves a sense of security. From there, and only from there, will we be able to give of ourselves.
My guess is that Jesus would have some choice words to say to this: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mt 16:23).
As important as safety and security are for us—evident in the amount of time and money we spend ensuring them—Jesus seems to have no interest in them at all. In fact, for Jesus, they are more of a hindrance than a help. You see, when we are safe, when we have protection, when safety nets are all around us, we don’t need to ask anyone else for help. No, in those situations, we find ourselves in quite a self-reliant state. We can count on our own strength and our own resources and our own ability, and pretty soon, we don’t need to trust in anyone else but ourselves.
(This is when the red warning light should be going off in our heads.)
The reason why Jesus strips them of all their security is because he wants them to trust not in themselves, but completely in God. When things get difficult, when danger approaches, when they need help, he does not want them looking to themselves for the answer. No, at those times, he wants them to be so completely without anything else of use that they must rely on God.
That is what is necessary for the journey. That is what will make them good evangelizers. And that is what we all need this Lent. Like the disciples, we need to strip ourselves of all that gives us a false sense of security and leaves us feeling like we can control our own lives. We need to leave behind the notion that we are in charge and that we can trust in ourselves, and instead trust solely in God.
As strange as it sounds, what we need most is to seek insecurity. That’s the way Jesus went on his journey. That’s the way the great saints lived. And that’s the path we must follow as well. It is only when we have nothing to lean on ourselves that we will be forced to lean on God in a way that we never knew we could. That’s what Jesus wants.