Does Jesus Want You to Sell your Stuff? (Luke 12:33)
The Bible is full of treasures that we are afraid to open. We fear scriptures that are meant to bless us, and we run from words that should fill us with joy. Here’s an example:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. (Luke 12:33)
There is treasure here. Do you see it? Do you realize what Jesus is saying?
“He’s saying we have to sell our stuff to be saved. Being rich is wrong because ‘it’s hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom’.”
Nope. It is harder for the rich and self-sufficient to receive from the abundance of God’s grace, but the kingdom is received, not purchased. “Your Father is pleased to give you the kingdom,” says Jesus in the previous verse.
“He saying we have to sell our stuff to be blessed. ‘Blessed are the poor’ and all that.”
Nope. The poor are blessed if their poverty leads them to Jesus our Source, but poverty is not a blessing. Nor do we earn the Lord’s unmerited favor by selling our stuff.
“Giving to the poor earns us heavenly brownie points.”
Nope. If that were the case, why did Jesus do it (John 13:29)? Jesus didn’t need to curry favor with God.
“He’s addressing the idolatry of the rich young ruler.”
Nope. Wrong story. In Luke 18, Jesus tells a rich young ruler to sell his stuff, but here in Luke 12, Jesus is talking to his disciples. So what is he saying?
It’s about heavenly treasure
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:33-34)
Jesus isn’t calling us to a life of poverty. He’s giving us practical tips on how to gather the only treasure that lasts, which is people. What is the treasure that never wears out and cannot be stolen? It’s people. What is the only thing you can take with you? People, a.k.a. eternal friends, a.k.a. spiritual offspring.
There is nothing wrong with owning a nice house and car. But if all you have to show for your life is a bunch of moth-eaten, rusty toys, then you have not spent wisely. You’ve made inferior investments and settled for an empty life when you could have a life full of everlasting friends (see Luke 16:9).
“Sounds great, but I am no evangelist.” You don’t need to be an evangelist to win eternal friends. You just need to be a giver.
Sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. (Matt. 19:21)
Stuff is nice, but stuff don’t last. Your pretty phone will eventually end up in a landfill. Your precious car will one day be crushed into a brick. But friendships forged in Christ endure forever.
So much time and effort is spent debating heavenly treasures as though they were some great mystery. What are they? How do we get them? Jesus makes it plain: “You want heavenly treasure? Sell and give to the poor.” That’s it.
What’s so special about the poor?
The church has a funny relationship with the poor. We feel guilty if we ignore them, and smug if we help them. How does Jesus want us to view the poor? Jesus wants us to see the poor as treasures and potential friends.
Religion views the poor as a resource to be exploited, but grace compels us to see the poor as treasured people. Religion robs from the poor, but grace gives to the poor. Religion upends the words of Christ by telling the poor, “Give to the rich and you will have treasure in heaven.” It’s a disgrace.
When you give a banquet, invite the poor… (Luke 14:13)
Jesus reached out to the poor and he encourages us to do the same. “Give to the poor, invite the poor, help the poor.” It’s not that God loves the poor more than the rich, it’s that the poor are the low-hanging fruit. Unlike the rich, they haven’t been numbed by the false and fleeting comforts of this world. Aware of their needs, they are ready to meet the One who promises to supply all of our needs in Christ Jesus. The table of the Lord’s abundance has been laid for all, but only the hungry are grateful.
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. (Luke 14:13–14)
People throw parties to socialize and get ahead. They invite others in the hope of getting something in return. But Jesus said we can also throw parties to make eternal friends. How? By inviting those who cannot pay us back.
“Do that,” said Jesus, “and you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
How are we repaid? Through friends. Do you see? Those needy folk aren’t going to be needy forever. One day they will shine with glory, and they will thank you for sharing your life with them.
In the eyes of the world the poor have nothing to offer, but Jesus says “The poor are worth dying for.” That should tell us something. “God thinks you’re awesome, and so do I.”
If I give all I possess to the poor, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3)
Like Jesus, Paul eagerly gave to the poor (Gal. 2:10). He did not give out of religious duty or to put a shine on his reputation. He did it because he loved people and wanted to share the love of God with as many as possible.
Life is a gift that is easily wasted. We can waste it running after inferior rewards that rust, or we can do what Jesus and Paul did and invest ourselves in the only reward that lasts: people.
There’s no better investment, and no better way to spend your life.
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I like this, its really good, and totally agree. I do want to point out that when Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the poor, for they shall be filled,” He was talking about poor spiritually, which leads to poor physically. They will be filled spiritually which leads to being provided for physically. The Beatitudes are a progression of the blessings of salvation.
They are indeed. I love the Beatitudes.
I must be stupid, dumb–I still don’t understand what i should do with my accumulated wealth. I’m not obsessed or particularly concerned with getting more yet i feel like that isn’t enough. Is 10
% enough to give,, Respectufully i’m not sure what your saying -Please elaborate more on this issue.everyone seems to get it except me. Is Jesus Even my questions and response makes me sound like a tight miser. Like i want to give only the minimum. Blessings dennis
What should you do? That’s not for me to say. It’s your money, not mine. What can you do? I have many ideas. When it comes to fulfilling the Great Commission, money is a useful tool. For more, check out my articles on giving in the archives.
One of your best!
Brilliant as always. I thank Jesus for you Paul.
Thanks for your insight. =)
But the Jerusalem church did sell their possessions and goods see Acts 2:44-46; 3:6; 4:34, 35. Note the warning in Acts 5:1-6. These instructions will help those in the future Tribulation who can not buy or sell because they refuse to take the mark of the beast as per Revelation 13:16, 17.
The church in Jerusalem was loving when they helped others but we still need wisdom. They became bankrupt shortly afterwards and Paul had to take up collections to support them. We must use wisdom in our stewardship.
I’m not sure why you think the church went bankrupt. Paul raised money for the saints in Jerusalem because they were starving on account of famine.
Good word Paul. What’s the old saying, we love things and use people but we should be loving people and using things.
I know the focus of your article was on a giving heart but I wanted to get your thoughts on where/how to give. My wife and I support several outreaches and hospital ministries but struggle with local needs. One recipient used $800 for cigarettes instead of rent. Another said, I don’t want your food I want your money! Its so hard to trust people with the Lord’s money.
Also, a slightly different focus- not one time gifts but 1 Tim 5 gives the qualifications for someone to be taken care of by the church.
Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints’ feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work.
I have never seen a good message or article on this text. Are there different criteria for giving to unbelievers, christians and elderly christians? Your insight is valuable to me even though I might sound argumentative. A soup kitchen manager wrote a great article yrs ago on this but I lost it 🙁
I could write a book on where/how to give. Giving cash to addicts, to use the example you mentioned earlier, may not be the smartest investment. But that’s just it – this is an investment. You wouldn’t invest in a business or buy shares in a company without careful consideration, so why do we treat giving differently? When Paul collected funds for the starving church in Jerusalem, that was a smart investment. That church was an apostle-producing machine. Countless lives were changed because of the people who came out of that church. We once funded a kindergarten in Mongolia that fed and educated the urban poor. It was a huge success. The President of Mongolia even visited.
Alex, Isn’t clear re: selling possessions – this biblical account is a paradigm of present/ongoing decisions? Those in the Jerusalem Assemblings [several of them (assemblies) collectively around the region] were in agreement to continually be giving possessions to those who were in need.
It never lends an inference that those in need were totally without resources either. The poorer amongst them then & now were & are as capable, creative & potentially innovative as anyone else in the Assemblies. Those in the Assemblies gave first to those in need amongst them… the family of God before the world at large, without Him.
It is curious to think this notion through to its conclusion. If we sell ALL we have to give to the poor, we would have nothing: we would become “the poor”. Then, we would be hoping that someone else would sell all they have, so they can give to us. Once these people have sold ALL they have, to give to us, they would become “the poor”. And, once they have given to us, we would have to sell what they gave us to give that to the poor, and on and on… producing a steady stream of poverty to all who participate in this endless, vain, process. If we take this through to its conclusion, no one is really helped who participates. Not a great way to make eternal friends….. Like the lame man at the Beautiful Gate, who asked Peter and John for alms of silver and gold (read Acts chapter 3), we New Creatures in Christ Jesus have something much better to give: DELIVERANCE, given in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit within us! For the lame man, alms would have supported his crippled lifestyle, no matter how well-meaning the generous givers had been. (after selling all they had, to give to the poor and the needy) Please think this through, with the wisdom of God that has been graciously given to us, in Christ Jesus…Love, in Christ Jesus, Saint C.
How do you read Luke 12:33-34?
I find 10lessonsbyasaint agreeable.
I will interpret Luke 12:33-34 as follow. Give up anything that possessed you. Instead get Christ, the everlasting treasure, who is the Treasure of all-surpassing power from God (2 Corinthians 4:7) and the Treasure of all wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). The key I see to confirm this where the last part of Luke 12:34 says : For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Surely we want Christ to be in our heart. And as new creations, we are one spirit with the Lord who dwells in us, in our heart isn’t it?
Eureka! Finally someone with godly wisdom. Can you teach our bible study. They want to give cash to drug addicts. They claim “we fulfilled Gods will and its up to them not to buy drugs.” Basically buying crack for them. We can do better.
Thanks for the “clearification”. Had a discussion last evening about situation where off the street person asked for $. I gave but did not share the gospel or any Word of God. I see now why it is important to give money and help them with their future. “The low hanging fruit” = the poor =easy to get to and needs love and blessings. Reward will be in heaven, not necessarily on earth. Boy, did you help me! Again, Thanks!
Sometime I will give to a person asking for money on the street. But I want them know the love of Christ. So I don’t preach but I just say “God bless you” or “Jesus loves you” and I feel they see the love in me. I must say I don’t do it enough, but I am blessed and can remember these event when they happen. It is personal. and I hardly ever give to charities with no face.
Why DON’T you ‘preach’? (Share the gospel)? You might be their only chance to hear the words that bring eternal life! Honestly that makes me so sad. I knew Christians all my life and nobody shared the gospel with me until a stranger did, and I was profoundly grateful. I couldn’t figure out why the people who were supposed to love me, didn’t love me enough to put their friendship with me on the altar (possibly risking rejection) so that I might get saved for eternity. Why on earth Christians are scared of being seen as ‘preachy’ escapes me. It’s the reason we are here. People are on their way to hell. Speak up or pass a good tract.
There is preachy and there is “preachy”. The first one is what you get called when someone doesn’t want to hear the gospel you share and the other is when you are more like a Pharisee out scoring more points with God by telling all the sinners how horrible they are and that God thinks they are disgusting until they get prettied up. Ugh! Most people get scared off from sharing the gospel because they do not want to be associated with the second kind of preachy. It isn’t rejection folks are scared of but of being thought of as one of those types. 🙂 We know we have good intentions but the toxic folks have ruined it in some areas.
I think it is possible that your friends might have experienced rejection or something similar. It could also be that your friends prayed for you and God sent someone to tell you the gospel. God is just. He has to provide the Gospel. I never heard the Gospel by a preacher in person, God led me to Jesus via researching conspiracy theories. If God sees that you search Him, he will provide you with the truth. Of course He is the One who draws you first. But it is on us to search Him. So I think, God will provide the Gospel even though some christians may have shortcomings. Because He is God and stuff. God bless all who read this.
You can’t make the poor richer by making the rich poorer
Indeed, but that’s not what Jesus is talking about.
I have at times been ‘the poor’ and others have given generously to us… but now we can do this for others, and we love to. The look on people’s faces when you just give a voucher, or pay for their food, or pay for their petrol is priceless. They cry as the love of God touches them. I usually ask if I can bless them and then pray a little blessing over them too. It moves them deeply towards Him.
Thanks Kath, you’re absolutely right. There is a great joy in blessing others; it enlarges our hearts and makes us feel more human, more connected. And if we can point people to God while we’re doing it, all the better. Conversely, hoarding our stuff makes us feel miserable and disconnected. Never sharing the good news with those who desperately need it leaves us stagnant and lonely.
It makes me want to cry to think the amount of money earnest Christians give away to fruitless church activities every year, dutifully paying their ten percent Christian tax! Myself included! I could of paid off my mortgage by now, or supported some fruitful spirit led ministry, what a mug!!
May our Lord Jesus Christ give you Mr Paul a greater Grace so that you can be able to continue the good work you have started by sharing the Gospel of Grace. Thanks for the word.
People for some reason think jesus was poor. When I say poor I mean literal physical money poor. This is a guy who had authority over the quantum world. Satan told him to change rocks into bread, he changed water into wine, and multiplied tens of thousands of fish and bread from scraps. This guy had the ultimate power of literal wealth. He didn’t need a storehouse because he was a real life walking and talking star trek replicator. And we Christian people still think god is someone anti money, stingy, and despises all the creations and luxuries of life. Our problem is not knowing how to utilise that power he gave us. Remember he said we would do at minimum what he did and even greater things. Right now we aren’t and I’d like to know why.
We tend to think that “blessing” is working a job to gain a check. Read the OT and how many times did god provide the people without them working? If he wanted man to work so hard for their living why didn’t he have Israel develop a new land instead of giving them a land where they did not build or develop? Where is the manna from the sky, raising the dead, healing the sick and injured, water into wine, red sea splitting power we are supposed to have in this world??
Excellent commentary – the treasure is eternal blessing received by blessing others. Also, God is a debtor to no man, you give to the poor, He owes you! And He promises to give back to you more abundantly than you gave to the poor. Why the poor? Perhaps they are the underclass, the oppressed, the taken advantage of. And they can’t pay you back. If you want to follow Christ, you can’t be weighed down with possessions that hinder you from doing what God commands. He will give us our daily bread, anything above that is gravy and can be given away.
I like Mark’s account of this situation. The young ruler asked “what must I DO to receive eternal life?” I believe Jesus wasn’t preaching the Gospel message of Grace through faith when He responded. He literally answered him. Keep the Law (no one can), but the ruler said I have since my youth. Yea he kept the outward ten commands. He was rich he didn’t have to labor, so of course he observed Sabbath, no need to covet, he had many possessions, etc. So Jesus masterfully used the Law to reveal the darkened areas of his heart we all have in some way before Grace. I agree Jesus wasn’t giving a requirement for receiving eternal life.
Investing in people wow what a goal. In America many churches invest in bigger buildings and such, but sadly only open it on Sunday morning for about an hour. Instead of bigger buildings that seem to sit idle for days, why not have more opportunities for interaction among the Saints? Good word bro
I strongly disagree with a few points.
1. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. You would then become poor.
2. The reason why jesus said what he did was because the hebrews believed that if you were rich you were blessed and accepted by god and those that were poor were being cursed. They believed their effort won them a reward. Jesus told him to sell everything he had because the rich young ruler equated his wealth with his goodness. The rich young ruler was trying to earn acceptance from god based on his riches and deeds. He clung to his wealth as the deciding factor of his worth and it was the one thing that was holding him back from realizing it. Abraham was filthy rich and knew god loved him. The whole point is to circumcise whatever holds you back from believing you are rigtheous and accepted by god. The essence of grace vs law.
I strongly disagree with your disagreement. 🙂
1. Jesus never said sell everything in this passage; that’s adding to his words.
2. There is no rich young ruler in Luke 12; Jesus was talking to his disciples. (The rich young ruler appears in Luke 18.)
3. Your point about circumcising what holds us back is fair, but does not explain how we “provide for ourselves” treasure in heaven.
4. Jesus isn’t preaching the Communist Manifesto; he’s giving us sound investment advice far better than anything you’ll get from Goldman Sachs.
2 Corinthians 9:6-15 is relevant here: We are urged to treat giving like farming, with us sowing and trusting God to give a harvest. The disciples, being good Jews, avoided using the “tithe” word because it had requirements and strings attached (like giving it to the Levites). While I do not believe that we are required to tithe, I deeply believe that there continues to be good reasons that the figure of 10% was chosen (The flat tax of 20% Joseph imposed on the Egyptians seemed to come from that same deep insight into the World that God gifted to him.)
Part of the farming process is wisely knowing what to sow, when to sow, and where to sow: in the Parable of the Sower, we know some seed fell in very much less than optimal locations, but it takes a real leap in gullibility to NOT believe that the sower TRIED to AIM most of his seed to land in good ground! Give, but give wisely and at the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
Man, thanks a lot for this article! Seriously, you just confirmed something I’ve always believed in concerning the heavenly treasures Jesus spoke of- give! And you did a very good job of really explaining it in a simple way.
You hit the nail on the head for me when you said,
“So much time and effort is spent debating heavenly treasures as though they were some great mystery. What are they? How do we get them? Jesus makes it plain: “You want heavenly treasure? Sell and give to the poor.” That’s it.”
Thank you so much and God bless you for this article!
P.S. I’m definitely sharing this article with my friends on facebook.
Great word Paul, and I love the thoughts of the Saints. Something to think about in addition–
I really think we can…..and it’s pretty easy, just give and pray it is used to the Lord’s glory! The end…..
wondering, watching, etc. where one uses our money or goods we give….will drive one crazy! Once it’s given, it’s no longer mine and to try and keep score as to how they spent it and where, etc. can lead to a bad path, away from grace!
In my times of being poor (without much, welfare, etc.), a few times around, I found myself with more time and desire to bring myself closer to the Lord. When I had little, I carefully watch every penny spent, and having enough food for two (2) days made me very joyful inside. When I had no money to spend and meet friends to buy beers and wings, my life become more “still”. Everything about my life without much, is at odds with what the world beckons us to do (drugs, prostitutes, vanities). I’ve hearkened the teachings of Christ, wherein, when I have a lot with more money to spend, the more careless I became, without giving much thought to my neighbor, who may only have food for the day.
I come from much, made a lot, but I must say: in my finite time here, as contrary to what people might think, my hope is to be still. Stand with the Lord, and you will be judged by man. So be it.
One word. WOW!!
Thank you, this really blessed, challenged and helped me! Bless you and your teaching gift.
Glad to hear that Kath. Thanks.
I find it notable that Jesus said, ‘When you give a party, DO NOT invite your friends or family, but invite the poor.’ For a few years, whenever it was my birthday, instead of inviting my friends (many of whom were poor), I handed out invitations only to strangers whom I met begging on the streets or at soup kitchens, and then prepared food and waited for the guests to arrive.
Not surprisingly, none of them turned up. I imagine this was partly because they didn’t know where my house was, but mainly because, as they weren’t my friends, they had no reason to want to spend an afternoon with me. By inviting strangers, whom I didn’t know anything about except that they were poor, I was treating them not as individuals, but as a class called ‘the poor’, and, quite understandably, they didn’t want to be patronised like that.
If I had decided not to have a party, but instead just handed out money to people whom I saw begging, then yes, some of them would have been quite likely to spend it on drugs or alcohol, but at least they would have enjoyed it. And if we’re supposed to treat poor people as if they were Jesus (Parable of the Sheep and the Goats), shouldn’t we obey them (which implies giving them whatever they ask for)?
I wish I could believe that Jesus loves everyone and sees us as people, not just as ‘the poor’ and ‘the rich’.