During chapter 2 of the online course from his book A New Earth, Eckhart Tolle with Oprah answered a caller’s inquiry about knowing when to let go and when to be assertive.
Michelle called in from Philadelphia, PA to participate in the discussion asking: “I’m a little bit confused with chapter 2. I understand the quote, ‘If someone takes your shirt, let them have your coat as well.’ Where do you draw the line without getting walked all over? I don’t want to be an egotistical person, but at the same time I do not want to get taken advantage of. So I’m having a little bit of confusion with that.”
The passage Michelle was referring to came directly from the Bible as originally spoken by Jesus. “To him that hits you on one cheek offer the other also; and to him that takes away your shirt, give him your coat also.” (Luke 6:29)
Jesus sought to build a spiritual kingdom and build the inner man within humanity, whereby they would not hold tightly to and be encumbered by earthly things. Jesus said, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
The rich young ruler came to Jesus and said: “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16) Jesus sensing the flattery a bit, immediately had him redirect his attention toward God the Father and keeping the commandments to enter into life.
The young man said to Jesus, “All these things have I kept from my youth up: what do I yet lack?” (v. 20) Interestingly, the young man did not simply say he had kept the commandments, but went so far as to point out he had done so throughout his youth until now. This might signal a slight bit of self-righteousness and tendency to trying to earn salvation by good works. Note the young man asked what he must “do” to have eternal life.
Christ and the kingdom of God however are received and entered into by faith, not good works. Of course thereafter you get to do good works, but by no means must you do good works. Good works are to flow freely from the heart as you love God and your neighbor.
Jesus discerned the young man’s dilemma and issue, after which Jesus without hesitation cut to the chase and advised him. “If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me” (Matthew 19:21).
He had great possessions, but more importantly his response revealed the condition of his heart. The reply of the young man says it all. “But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.” (v. 22)
This showed that he was possessed by his possessions, or that his possessions owned him. Jesus beholding the young man walk away said, “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 23).
Note Jesus did not say it was impossible, just more difficult and hard. Because when you have this world’s material goods in your possession, you become increasingly self-sufficient. The tendency therefore is to pull away from God and become a god unto yourself.
Yet Joseph of Arimathea was a rich disciple who wholeheartedly followed Jesus (Matthew 27:57), proving that it can successfully be done. Zacchaeus who was chief among the publicans was also rich. Zacchaeus so hungered for Christ that he climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Jesus when He passed by. Believing wholeheartedly in Christ the Lord, Zacchaeus immediately repented, made restitution, and experienced a glorious salvation in his house (see Luke 19:2-9).
Eckhart when answering Michelle’s question replied, “All it says is sometimes letting go, there’s more power in letting go than in clinging or hanging on to something. So there are situations when you actually become empowered when you let go, rather than when you cling. It does not mean that people walk all over you. In fact there are situations when you have to say no very clearly as to a situation or to a person, but even that ‘no’ can be of two different kinds.”
Tolle continued, “Usually the no is very negative. When you say ‘no’ to a person; a person says, ‘I’ll give you a ride home.’ But you see the person is drunk. Of course you wouldn’t say yes just to be pleasant. You say no.”
“Now do you say no with negative energy and in a state of resistance or do you say not that is positive? It simply means a clear and straight forward, ‘No, I won’t do that.'”
“This is very different from the resistant no. I call that the no that is not negative – a high quality no.”
Oprah added some insight: “It’s also looking at the reason, why you would cling to the shirt. …If the reason why you’re holding to the shirt causes you to think the shirt is going to give you more value or you’re operating from your ego when you’re holding on to it. So you’re saying …surrender whatever needs to be surrendered.”
Oprah is correct in seeking to assess the motivation of the heart and the “reason” for clinging on to things. This is precisely why Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give to the poor, because Jesus sensed the young man’s unhealthy attachment and identification with his possessions.
Truly the Word of God is likened unto a two-edged sword that cuts, divides, and discerns the thoughts and intentions of the heart (see Hebrews 4:12). Yet we know that it is very possible to be both rich and spiritual, because all of Jesus’ apostles were previously successful businessmen. Upon becoming Christ’s disciples and traveling with him, they continued to support themselves and their families.
Therefore when Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). Jesus’ disciples immediately were astonished beyond measure. Why so? Because they knew their own economic standing and were concerned with their own spiritual well being.
The disciples fearing for their own salvation said among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” (Mark 10:26) Jesus answered them saying, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible” (Mark 10:27).
This comment and reply from Jesus is to say that men can buy nearly everything, but not eternal salvation. This alone therefore comes from God, which if you keep your heart tender and sensitive to the Spirit of the Lord you can have. The problem with things is that they have a tendency to encumber one’s heart and thereby like weeds “choke out the Word of God’ making it unfruitful in you.
“The cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke God’s Word, making it unfruitful in you” (see Mark 4:19).
Jesus being fully committed to earthly prosperity as well as heavenly riches and glory expounded saying, “There is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30).
Interestingly, Jesus said along with the blessings that come when you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:31), along with them you shall be persecuted. And the majority of persecution comes from the jealous religious crowd who want what you’ve got, but haven’t paid the price that you’ve sacrificially and experientially paid.
Many wanted (and still want and pursue) the revelation and divine insight of the apostle Paul. Yet very few are willing to endure the hardships, abuse, persecution, and difficulties that Paul endured to get such inward revelation.
In answer to Michelle’s question, no we should not let ourselves be doormats for people to use and abuse. When the Pharisees and scribes sought to entangle Jesus in His speech, He wisely answered them and withdrew Himself from among them. Moreover when appropriate, Christ boldly confronted them to address their own hypocrisy.
We cannot correct what we refuse to confront. Often what you tolerate will continue to dominate.
Therefore we must bring order to our lives, homes, and interactions professionally and socially; lest we be bulldozed over by cunning people in the business world and society.
God gave you heart and backbone, preserve and use them both when appropriate. As you do you shall guard and protect the positive life force energy flowing in and through you.