Modern readers, especially in the global West, may react strongly to these stark commandments of Jesus regarding wealth/possessions:
“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
“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” Luke 12:33
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.” Luke 14:33
These reactions may be guilt over not obeying, guardedness or defensiveness, offering reasons why these statements don’t apply to the modern age. Or, least likely but still possible, some readers may immediately drop everything and sell all that they have so as to be true disciples of Jesus.
Each reaction is understandable and has adherents in the Church today as well as throughout Church history. What is clear is that Jesus’ teachings are striking and must be addressed one way or another.
This blog series sought to provide readers with a thoughtful and nuanced interpretation of Jesus’ commandments concerning wealth and possessions. There was a review of the history of interpretation of these commands and how various parts and members of the Church have understood and applied their meaning. There was also a close analysis of Jesus’ statements in their context in the Gospels. Lastly, there was a theological and practical reflection on how these commands can be faithfully followed in today’s culture in the West. Here is an overview of the entire series to easily review all of the material we covered.
Sell Your Possessions & Give to the Poor?
A close reading of Jesus’ commandments regarding selling possessions requires a thoughtful and nuanced interpretation and application. Here’s how to start.
Read part one here.
Ways of Navigating Jesus’ Command to the Rich Young Ruler in the Early Church
Early church leaders differed on what Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler meant and how it should be followed. Here’s what we can learn from them.
Read part two here.
Ways of Navigating Jesus’ Command to the Rich Young Ruler through the Reformation
Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler received different interpretations by those who lived in the Reformation and post-Reformation eras. Here’s what to know.
Read part three here.
Hearing Jesus’ Commands in the Story of the Rich Young Ruler
What biblical truths can we discern from the story of the rich young ruler? Reading this story in the proper context can help us gain a deeper understanding.
Read part four here.
Understanding Luke’s Theology & the Story of the Rich Young Ruler
In the Gospel of Luke, the story of the rich young ruler can best be understood alongside larger biblical themes. What are some key takeaways?
Read part five here.
The Story of the Rich Young Ruler Through the Books of Luke & Acts
The books of Luke and Acts provide insight into the story of the rich young ruler as well as the commands of Jesus on wealth and possessions. What can we learn?
Read part six here.
Hearing & Heeding Jesus’ Commands in the 21st Century Global West
The Bible has a lot to say about wealth and possessions. Following Jesus’ example, how do we correctly apply his commands to our lives today?
Read part seven here.
Editor’s note: This series is adapted from the IFWE research paper, “Sell Your Possessions And Give To The Poor” A Theological Reflection On Jesus’ Teaching Regarding Personal Wealth And Charity by Dr. Jonathan Pennington. Read the full paper here.