Monday, November 23, 2009

What is the right response to "sell your possessions and give to the poor"?

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Matthew 19:21)
I have heard much effort put into interpreting this verse, and much of it centers on justifying us as we ignore what was said. Was Jesus talking to us? Was it meant for everyone? What about other examples of other people he spoke to? If everyone did this, wouldn't everyone be poor?

I'd very much like to see this trend turned around. If we took it as seriously as the instruction to pray, we'd sell something of ours daily. If we took it as seriously as the instruction to come meet together to encourage each other, we'd sell something of ours weekly. With consignment stores, eBay, garage sales and so forth, it may never have been easier to live out these particular words of Christ.

How should we envision this teaching of Jesus in our day?

Should each church have an annual garage sale with 100% of proceeds going to the needy? Should each child think of that as part of their Christian experience, that at least once a year they literally take a thing of theirs and sell it and give the money to the poor?

Should charitable causes have places where you can list your goods on eBay and they receive the proceeds? Should churches help make the arrangements?

Let me know if you all can envision other ways this might work out. I'd like to mull over some proposals and present them to some of the elders at our church.


randy olds said...

I am realizing more and more the truth of this statement that Jesus made. The most important thing in this life is in building the Kingdom of God here on earth, not our own personal kingdom of wealth and possesions.

When Jesus talked about 'prosperity' in the Gospels He was referring to spiritual prosperity, not material prosperity.

Of course, we must keep a roof over our heads and food in the pantry, but building up treasure here on earth is not what it's all about. If every Christian in this country alone was willing to curb their spending by only 25% and give to the poor, I can only imagine what the result might be. Not only would many, many needy people be fed and clothed, but many others who are now non-believers might just realize that this whole Christian way of life is to be envied and I believe that millions would come to Christ and be saved.

Chris Duckworth said...

I criticized the tendency to dismiss this teaching in my sermon a few weeks ago:

The Apology to the Augsburg Confession, for example, says "It is silly to maintain that it is an act of devotion to God to leave possessions, friends, family ... this calling is not for everyone, but only for the person with whom Christ is talking here" (re: Mark 10:17-31). We so particularize the text that we rob it of its meaning for us.

This command is an impossible command - just like the 10 Commandments themselves (particularly if you accept Luther's interpretation of them)! So I preached that in this text we learn that it is impossible to follow Jesus ... we can't do what he bids us to do ... who then can be saved?

The Good News? "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi there

Randy - I wonder, too, what if (say) 25% of us did something, or 50%, or 100%. That's why I'm wondering: what if the both church challenged us and presented opportunities for us, like it does with prayer and worship and study and fellowship? I'm seeing it as a lack, that we're not doing something systematic.

Chris - So what would be the best way, as a congregation, to step out and do something? Do you think the "garage sale" thing is practical? Would it fly in your congregation, do you think?

Take care & God bless