Jesus taught several times to sell all that a person has and give it to the poor. What does it mean to sell all? Is Jesus asking us to become homeless and lose our jobs? Let’s explore what Jesus actually taught.
Parables about selling
Matt 13:44-46 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Jesus taught in His parables regarding the kingdom of heaven which we must buy by selling all that we have. Parables can be interpreted in different ways. Hence, we must be extremely careful in interpreting it by comparing with what Christ taught in His other teachings. For example, what did the man sell? His wife and his children are also a man’s possession as per the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matt 18:25) and his children can be sold as per the law (Exod 21:7). Did the man sold his wife and children as well?
That’s not the intent of the parable. The parable shows the true cost of inheriting the kingdom of heaven. It can cost our entire wealth (Matt 13:44-46), all our relationships (Matt 10:37), our body parts (Mark 9:43-48) and even our own life (Mark 8:35). If our parents or children come in between us and God and cause us to sin and disobey Him, we need to depart from them. If job comes in between us and God and cause us to sin and disobey Him, we need to resign. If TV or internet comes in between us and God and cause us to sin and disobey Him, we need to disconnect. If money or wealth comes in between us and God and cause us to sin and disobey Him, we must throw away. This is the true cost of inheriting His kingdom. This parable is not about becoming poor and homeless.
Luke 12:15-21 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
Luke 12:33-34 “Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
In an another parable of Jesus, He taught not to lay up “treasures” in this world. This gives us a clear indication that Jesus wants us to sell all our “riches” or “treasures” or “the abundance of things a man possesses” and give it to the poor. He did not command us to become homeless or become poor. This is why, later in the same sermon, Jesus taught us to lay “treasures” in heaven by giving alms instead of laying up treasures on earth. Where our treasure is, our heart will also be.
What did Peter leave to follow Jesus?
Matt 19:27-29 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.
John 20:6-10 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; and he saw the linen cloths lying there, and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. Then the disciples went away again to their own homes.
How can Peter go to his own home when he claimed to have left all and Jesus clearly mentioning of leaving homes? Jesus is not teaching us to leave our parents or wife or children or anyone unless it is for His name sake. It is similar to how a Christian convert from a Muslim family had to forsake everything, including his parents, relatives, homes and land for the sake of Christ. Jesus is not asking His disciple to leave their homes and become homeless except it is for His name’s sake.
What did Jesus ask the rich man to sell?
Mark 10:21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” .. (23) Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
Is Jesus asking the rich man to become homeless and poor? Absolutely not! Jesus is asking the rich man to sell his riches and give it to the poor so that he will have treasure in heaven. Jesus is not against necessary things that are required for meeting our basic needs, like having a house or a vehicle., etc.
Luke 19:8-9 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;
Zacchaeus pledged to give half of his wealth to the poor and to restore 4 times of what he took by false accusation as per the law (Exod 22:1) and immediately Jesus said Salvation has come to this house. Jesus was not keen on Zacchaeus becoming homeless or poor, for Salvation to come to him but rather, to sell all his accumulated wealth and give it to the poor and to restore the stolen and keep his pledge (Ezek 33:15).
Is Jesus advocating to live in poverty?
Mark 12:41-44 Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”
It is important to note that many cults want their members to sell all they have and follow them. Hence, we must be extremely careful to not lock ourselves into any financial or life burden by following someone. Jesus taught us to sell all our “riches” to give it to the poor and follow Him. Even in the above passage, Jesus is not teaching anyone to become poor by selling even our basic needs and live in poverty so that they can give more than others. Jesus is actually teaching that many riches given to God is of no value if they give it from their “abundance” but even a tiny amount of money given by a poor person living in poverty is rich in God’s eyes.
Luke 9:57-62 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Is Jesus saying he doesn’t have a house by saying ‘Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head’? Absolutely not. Following Jesus is same as going and preaching the kingdom of God.
Matt 13:57 So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.”
Jesus Himself mentions about his house where He was not honoured. When Jesus said He has nowhere to lay His head, He was referring to His lodging on His way to Jerusalem as He journeyed on the road.
Are we to be without any job?
Luke 16:13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Is Jesus advocating against doing any job because it is working for money? Absolutely not. The above is the summary of the parable of the dishonest servant taught by Jesus Christ.
Luke 16:1-8 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’ So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.
The above story is about a dishonest steward who acted shrewdly and taught us that the wicked are more shrewd than the righteous. Using that same story, Jesus is teaching us what we must do.
Luke 16:9 And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you
faildie [G1587 ἐκλείπω ekleipo], they may receive you into an everlasting home.
Mammon is wealth or riches which Jesus is calling as “unrighteous”. Just as the dishonest steward who acted shrewdly, by using the master’s wealth to make friends who can receive him into their home, we must also use our wealth to make ourselves friends with God by giving it to Him who can receive us into an everlasting home.
The word ‘ekleipo’ in Greek actually means to omit, (by implication) to cease or die. Did Jesus ever taught anywhere that you can fail and still enter His kingdom? Absolutely not. Read John 8:34-35 and Matt 18:8-9 to see how Christ is zero tolerant to sin. The verse itself speaks out that ‘ekleipo’ means to die when the next statement speaks about everlasting home which is only after resurrection.
Matt 25:40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
Matt 12:50 “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
We can give our wealth to God by giving it to the least of His brethren. Christ’s brothers are not some poor fellow but a poor person who does the will of His Father in heaven. In other words, we can become friends with God if we give our wealth to the poor and needy who are His disciples who truly follow Him.
Luke 16:10-13 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.
Jesus taught that we must be faithful in all the riches we manage or handle that belongs to another man. For example, company expense claims, etc. If we are unfaithful in these small things how can God trust us with true riches? Being unfaithful in someone else’s money is what Jesus refers as serving wealth. But being faithful and honest on other’s money is serving God. How can we manage or handle other’s wealth faithfully if we are not working or without job?
John 6:26-27 Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.”
Is Jesus saying not to work in a job when He said not to labor for the food with perishes? Absolutely not. Jesus is clearly explaining not to seek Him for materialistic satisfaction that perishes but for His Word that endures for everlasting life. This is why, when disciples asked Jesus what they must do to work the works of God, He asked them to believe in Him (John 6:28-29), i.e, believe everything He says.
Mark 6:3 “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.
Matt 13:55 “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
Was Jesus without a job before He came to His ministry because it is working for money or food? Absolutely not. Jesus was mentioned as a carpenter just like His earthly father Joseph was a carpenter before He began His ministry.
If Jesus didn’t want us to live a life of poverty then why did he and his disciples all live a life of poverty? If our Lord was poor, what do we expect?
And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” (Luke 22:35)
Jesus and His disciples did not live in poverty. Even when His disciples had no money bag, knapsack and even sandals, they lacked nothing. Not only Jesus was able to feed the 5000 and 4000 on two different occasions (Mark 8:19-20), He even paid taxes (Matt 17:27).