Should Christians Sell Everything They Have?

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A few weeks ago we started a series on the Rich Young Ruler.  Unfortunately, the holidays and scheduling issues inhibited me from completing that series. 

Post #1: Rich Young Ruler: Challenging Bible Verses About Money

Post #2: Rich Young Man Bible Study: What’s The Meaning?

Today we tackle the final question – must I go and sell everything I have?

Three Important Reminders

1.  The Call To Sell Everything is Not a Standard One Offered To All Believers

What we need to remember about this story (as noted in previous posts on this topic) is that this call was not a standardized call part of a core gospel requirement.  In other words, the call to go, sell everything, and give to the poor was not part of Jesus’ typical message. 

Jesus taught often of the kingdom of God and even of repentance.  In his discussion with a Pharisee named Nicodemus Jesus told the man that to see the kingdom of God he was to be born again – to be born of water and spirit (John 3).  Yet, this Pharisee was unquestionably wealthy since he brought ointments to Jesus’ grave (John 19:39).

This leads me to conclude that based on something Jesus perceived when he ‘looked at the man’, he knew that this man did truly love his possessions more than he loved Jesus.  Not surprisingly, Jesus was right as this man went away sad. 

The answer, it seems, is that Jesus seeks the things that are most likely to distract us from discipleship.  And for each of us, that item will be different.

2.  The Requirement to Give Everything is Not Consistently Requested

There is no standard amount required to give to Jesus.

Interestingly, Luke 18 and Luke 19 are inconsistent when it comes to the amount one must give to have salvation.  To this Rich Young Ruler in Luke 18, Jesus requests everything be sold.  However, just a few events later, Jesus is in the house of Zacchaeus.  It seems as though Jesus’ presence has convinced Zacchaeus to give half his possessions to the poor (Luke 19:8).  Jesus then comments that on that very day salvation came to the house of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:9).

Why is one man required to give 100%, and for another 50%, and then for countless others Jesus never requests a redistribution of wealth?

The answer, it seems, is that what Jesus seeks from us is whatever tries to steal our heart from following him.  And for each of us that item and that amount will be different.

3.  The Form of Distributing Money Differs

Unfortunately, those that take Jesus’ challenge to this young man as a standard call for all Christians fail to recognize that Jesus even asks or expects us to do different things with the money we give.

In Mark 14, a woman comes and pours expensive perfume on Jesus.  And those around were indignant.

“The money should have been given to the poor”, the protestors claim. 

Yet, Jesus thinks that whatever is done with our resources out of love and respect for Jesus is an appropriate way to distribute money. 

Jesus is happy when we give gifts with the intention to honor him.

Should You Sell Everything and Give It To The Poor?

Yes, in so far as the story of the Rich Young Ruler is your own story.  If you relate to this man, to his struggle to his wealth addiction.  If money has become more important than your master.  If you think about having it more than having him.  It would be better for a man to enter the kingdom of God with empty pockets than … well I think you get the point.

6 Questions to consider

  • Do I find giving to be a joy or a burden?
  • Do I find myself spending most of my waking hours thinking about how to get and grow money?
  • Do I automatically offer excuses as to how I’m so different from this man?
  • Do I find my prayers are hindered because I keep thinking about money?
  • Has my spouse insinuated I have a strong attachment to money or stuff?
  • If it’s not money, what is it?

In my opinion, more of us are like this man than we would care to admit.  Seek God and ask him to help give you the right emotional, spiritual, and financial balance.  Above all things, seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness.

Photo by knowhimonline.


  1. says

    Good catch on this Craig. I think a lot of believers get hung up on these teachings and experience unnecessary guilt in connection with money.

    Another verse says “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil”, so it isn’t that money itself is cursed, but rather our attachment to it. Jesus instructed the rich young ruler to sell all he had and follow him precisely because he knew where the man’s loyalties were. It wasn’t a general directive for all followers.

    It’s interesting how there’s a tension among believers between a perceived need to abandon money and anything connected with it, vs. the prosperity gospel, which is a perversion of equal weight, but in the opposite direction.

    (I can see myself in the rich young ruler in a number of ways!)
    .-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Restaurant Tipping – How Much and When? =-.

  2. Born says

    I just read two artices on the subject of Christians giving away their money, and both seemed to zero in on the Rich Young Ruler, a comparitively incomplete passage on giving away your wealth when compared to Luke 12: 13-34. Following is a summary of the verses just mentioined:

    Luke 12:13-15 A man is aruging with his brother over the inheritance that his brother wasn’t giving him, asking Jesus to judge in the matter. Jesus didn’t appear interested in helping him acquire his wealth, even if rightfully his in the world’s view. He then went on to give several teachings about money as follows:

    A) Luke 12: 16-21 A man Rich man had a bumper crop yield and decided to make even bigger barns and to retire for many years. Jesus called him a fool as he was piling up riches for himself, but was not rich in the sight of God.

    B) Luke 12: 22-31 Jesus here goes on to say how the crows don’t plant seeds or have barns (kind of like that Rich Man in “A” above) and yet how they are fed. And how the flowers were “clothed” more beautifully than King Solomon. He exclaimed here “How little faith you have!” for being worried about food and clothing when God will obviously provide these things as he does for the rest of His creation. He said it is the Heathen of this world who are always concerned about those things in vs 29. He concludes by saying we should be concerned with HIS KINGDOM and he will provide those things for you.

    C) Luke 12: 32-34 He says “your father is pleased to give you the Kingdom”. Then he says to sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor! He also gives a reason for doing this, or so it seems, in vs 34 where he says “For your heart will always be where your riches are.”

    So, worry about the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, not about money. In fact, trust in God and give it away is what I get out of it? Our modern version of a barn might be to put our money in banks! But what about the poor in haiti? Or in South America? Or in your own town? Does God provide for us so that we can retire or hoard it? Are we trusting God when we want to keep money saved in our bank accounts or to have more so, we say, we can help others more with the money we have! Can’t God take care of them tomorrow? Today you have that hoard of possessions you are keeping for yourself! Share today!!!

    Now, with all that I’ve said about these verses in Luke, I was on the internet reading about this subject because I am not sure I understand all that is going on in this verse. My church teaches that accepting Christ as you Savior and following Him will result in prosperity in both the spirit (being born again) and in your health (by His stripes you are healed) and in your finances (as He is said to want to prosper you as he did those in the Old Testiment like Job, Abraham, Joseph, etc.).

    And yet those teachings in Luke 12 seem hard to reconcile with a Christian having possessions. And in Acts 2:44-45 says “ALL the believers continued together in close fellowship and shared their belongings with one another. They would sell their property and possessions and distribute the money among all, according to what one needed.”

    So Jesus in Luke is quoted as saying to sell all you have and in Acts, the first believers were doing just that.

    So, why are these words not mentioned in any teachings on Christians having money?

    I personally don’t understand how all Christians giving away all there possessions to the poor makes sense. If I personallly give all my possessions away, all my tenants will either have to buy my house from me (I owe money on them), or they will have to move. I will then have to work for someone else who has posessions in order to earn my food and drink.

    But on the other hand, it is the Kingdom of God that we should be seeking? And all we need is food, clothing and shelter (esp if in cold areas) to survive. And doesn’t the Bible teach that your will become rich and have treasures in your house by being a diligent worker?

    Of course, the Kingdom God has given us is of greater richest than anything we could get now so maybe it is too short-sighted to just look at Earthly riches.

    OK, these are some of my thoughts on the subject of Christians and money. Any comments?

    • John says

      Born I don’t know if your still out there or not but I wanted to say I understand your struggles. I’m currently facing the same ones. I mean what’s the problem of selling everything and giving the money to the poor although I’m not sure I feel entirely comfortable doing that? I also have renters and have some of the same thoughts as you do. I also have a wife who has worked diligently along side me for the last 35 years or so. Is it fair to her that I’m even considering doing this? I don’t know. What I do know is the unnecessary stress and anxiety we face by complicating our lives with the way we use money and I don’t know about you buts its sure not the dream I thought it would be. Maybe more of a nightmare really.

      • Paul says

        We complicate things. God isn’t interested in fairness. His was isn’t the way we born into. It will seem foreign. I think we’ve talked ourselves into limiting how much we give because it ‘makes sense’.
        The apostles lived in community after Pentecost, and reached thousands of people because they didn’t worry about work or maintaining a home. Some were wealthy before coming to Christ, and some had next to nothing.
        The treasures we build up are not for this world, but for our life after in the new Kingdom.
        What if every Christian on the face of the planet were to now sell everything they have and live in community, spreading the word of God and bringing in a harvest for Christ? It may not be the dream you cultivated, but I’m convinced it’s what God is calling us to do.
        “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

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