The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words (Psalm 119:57).
A portion is a part, something that one can consider one’s own. At the table, for instance, my children show no indignation whatsoever when their brothers and sisters eat their own piece of cake. But should one transgress and steal a bite of his sister’s piece, indignation abounds.
In this rather common scene lies a profound truth—claiming my portion requires me to relinquish my claim on another’s. This is true even, perhaps especially, of the things of God. For instance, consider the words of David: “Who have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25-26). Hear in David’s words both embrace and renunciation. Content with the failure of his own flesh and heart—for he desires nothing on earth but the Lord—, David rejoices that the Lord is his portion, which frees him from coveting the success of the wicked around him (see the whole of Psalm 73). Or consider a somewhat obscure verse in Numbers, where the Lord forbids Aaron and the priests to own their own land: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them. I am your portion and your inheritance among the people of Israel” (Numbers 18:20). For Aaron and the priests, claiming the Lord as their portion required relinquishing any expectation of a portion elsewhere.
That embracing the Lord as our portion means forsaking any other portion is apparent throughout the Scriptures. Jesus offered to be the portion of the rich young man, but could only be received if he forsook the portion of his worldly wealth. The disciples, of course, understood this, leaving everything and following Him. Hebrews describes the early church as those who “joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34), then going on to speak of the character of faith:
These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:13-16).
One of the great snares in the Christian life is not being clear that receiving Jesus means relinquishing not only our rights, but also our expectations of any portion apart from God Himself. Yes, the Lord gives good gifts, and sometimes he calls one to a different kind of stewardship than another. But we may never consider any part our portion, apart from God Himself.
And how do we know, practically, whether the Lord is our portion? As the psalmist says above, “The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep your words.” To flip it around, if the Lord is not my portion, I will not keep his words.
Our irritabilities and our selfishness and our grumblings and our dishonesties—in short, our failure to keep the Lord’s words—stem, in the end, from one source: we haven’t embraced the Lord as our portion. Our only portion. In laying claim to our time or our property or our reputation or our health or our dreams or our whatever, we relinquish our claim to the Lord as our portion. Whenever we find ourselves in either neglect or open disobedience to the word of God, we do well to ask the question: What do I seek for my portion?
No man can serve two masters, because no man can possess two portions.