Church: Are we to sell our belongings and give away the proceeds?
What are we to think of the command Jesus gave the “rich young ruler” to sell his possessions and distribute the money he received to the poor? He DID give him such a command, didn’t He? Wasn’t this Christ’s answer to the question about what he should do to have eternal life? Let’s look at the passage where we have a record of this conversation.
16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
Isn’t this a common question people have about obtaining salvation and eternal life? Please look closely at Jesus’ answer.
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
Aren’t there people today who think that keeping the Commandments of the Mosaic Law and such is what will get them eternal life?
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
Do you suppose he’d done these things perfectly? Does God grade such things on a curve? If you think He does, what is your biblical basis for thinking that? Let’s look at more of this passage.
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? [Emphasis added]
Luke 12:31-33 is another passage where we find this same conversation recorded. Again, didn’t Jesus mean what He said to this young man about the means to eternal life? Some claim it was just a test for this man’s priorities. But isn’t this exactly what we see believers doing a little later in that same timeframe?
44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;
45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. [Emphasis added]
Is all this something the church of our time is to be doing? We clearly see that this continued right on as a practice of this early church.
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. [Emphasis added]
Again, if the church of today began on the Day of Pentecost at the time of Acts 2, as many claim, doesn’t this beg the question as to why believers aren’t doing these same things today? If they are not, how and when was it that this policy changed? The answer to that is one the church has been wrestling with for some two thousand years. But there is a simple and correct answer.
In the early ministry of Christ, He spoke of a soon coming earthly Kingdom.
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. [Emphasis added]
He even wanted the apostles to pray for the coming of this earthly Kingdom.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. [Emphasis added]
All this is perfectly consistent with the Kingdom teaching Christ presented in His “Sermon on the Mount” and elsewhere.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
What we need to learn from this is that in this coming earthly Kingdom, it is God who will completely supply all the sustenance needed for His people.
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God [this promised earthly kingdom], and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. [Emphasis added]
Some claim the fulfillment of the promised Kingdom came at the time of the cross, but there’s no evidence of that. Furthermore, the Bible does NOT tell us that. After Christ’s crucifixion, the most pressing question on the minds of the apostles was concerning this still unfulfilled promise of a coming Kingdom on Earth.
6 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? [Emphasis added]
Please notice in this next verse how Christ answered them.
7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. [Emphasis added]
Instead of saying yes or no, notice what He tells them.
8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Do you suppose they would have gone forth enthusiastically if they had known their message was going to be almost completely rejected? Christ surely knew that, but He didn’t tell them.
9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. [Emphasis added]
Question: Did the apostles end up going to the uttermost part of the earth with this message? Answer: There’s no record at all in the Scriptures that they did. The apostle Paul later went at least as far as Rome with his Gospel of the Grace of God, but the apostles didn’t with their Gospel of The Kingdom [also known as the gospel of the circumcision—Galatians 2:7]. They will take this message to the world in the coming time of The Tribulation, but not until then.
Question: What kind of response did the apostles and others get to their message? Answer: The leadership and most of Israel continued to reject it, remaining in unbelief even to our time today.
The apostles faithfully did as they were told. We see proof of that a little later.
1 Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour (3 PM).
2 And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb [meaning nearly everyone there knew he’d always been lame] was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms [money] of them that entered into the temple;
3 Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
6 Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. [Emphasis added]
The reason Peter literally didn’t have any money was because he’d given it all away. The apostles and others had all their money in a common treasury to make distributions to people as needed.
Then we have the case of Ananias and Saphira to consider in relation to all this.
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
5 And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things. [Emphasis added]
Sometime later we find the apostles still working their ministry in Jerusalem doing their best to persuade people there to accept Jesus as their Messiah. But it was all to no avail! The people continued in their rejection of their message. And that all came to a head with the stoning of the man Stephen [Acts 7].
And Saul was consenting unto his death [that of Stephen]. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. [Emphasis added]
Please note that the apostles remained there because they were not to leave Jerusalem until there was a positive response to their message.
Then sometime later when the apostle Paul goes to meet with the apostles in Jerusalem, they are all still there. Doesn’t this tell us that the resistance to their message had continued?
4 And when they [Paul and his team] were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they [Paul and his team] declared all things that God had done with them among the Gentiles. [Emphasis added]
27 And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they [Paul and his team] rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he [not the apostles] had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles. [Emphasis added]
And by this time, because of all the resistance, it appears that James, and not Peter, oversees things there. But, again, the twelve apostles are all still in Jerusalem. The unbelief and rejection of Christ by the Jews continued throughout the timeframe of the whole book of Acts. At the end of that time, we see Paul’s verification of all this. Here we see that the prophecy concerning this was fulfilled.
25 And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers,
26 Saying, Go unto this people [Israel], and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive:
27 For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
28 Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. [Emphasis added]
And this is where we are today. For roughly two thousand years God has been working with the Gentiles. With extremely few exceptions, Israel continues in unbelief. The apostle Paul explains this about midway through his epistle to the Romans in chapters nine through eleven.
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye [believing Gentiles] should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. [Emphasis added]
No one knows exactly when this time of spiritual blindness for Israel will end. We just know it will end with the Rapture of the Church which is called the Body of Christ. After this assembly [this church] of God’s people is complete, God will resume His program with Israel in the timeframe of what is called The Tribulation. There’s then Christ’s Second Coming and finally His establishment of His promised earthly Kingdom.
No, we are not to sell all our belongings and give the money away. That is not God’s policy for us today. We are to rightly divide Scripture to know what’s addressed to us and what is not.
II Timothy 2:15
15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. [Emphasis added]
While we know the whole Bible has been provided FOR us, all the commands are not addressed TO us or are they ABOUT us. Sorting it all out is a challenge, but this is something that can be successfully done by anyone. To ignore the principle leads to confusion, division, and disobedience to the Word of God. Therefore, this is a worthy endeavor.
But what must one do to gain eternal life today? In our time, keeping the commandments of the Mosaic Law has nothing to do with it. This “rich young ruler” had no idea that the One to whom he was speaking was going to die for his sins, be buried, and raised to provide a way for his justification. But that’s the message that’s been revealed to us today. It is faith in this message alone that provides immediate salvation to anyone.
I Corinthians 15:3-4
3 For I [the Apostle Paul] delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
If you’ll accept by faith this which Jesus Christ did for you, you’ll be saved immediately. The righteousness God demands of you that you could never achieve by seeking to keep God’s laws will be provided freely.
II Corinthians 5:21
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
It is His righteousness applied to your account that will give you eternal life and more. If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll put your faith in Him right now and be saved.