On more than one occasion, I have had unbelievers (particularly those of a Hindu or Islamic persuasion) ask me why I haven’t sold all of my possessions. I’ve also received this question from believers before. In this article, I will address the question, “Did Yeshua say we should sell all of our possessions?”
The Origin of the Claim
Matthew 19:21 reads, “Yeshua said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you own, and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.” What is interesting about this passage is that the wealthy man claimed to have kept the commandments in verse 20. This prompted what Yeshua said in verse 21.
Addressing the Claim
What is interesting is that the man grieved when Yeshua told him to sell all he had and follow him. The first of the ten commandments is, “You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3).” And Yeshua said the most important commandment was, “And He said to him, “‘You shall love Adonai your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-38).” What Yeshua said was what it meant to keep the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” If the man grieved because Yeshua told him to sell all of his possessions, it is clear he was not keeping the most important commandment. Though the reason why Yeshua told him to do this is not stated, it can be easily inferred that despite the man saying that he kept the commandments, he was not keeping the most important one.
And why is an explanation necessary? Is it not obvious that Yeshua tells all of his followers to sell their possessions? The answer is a resounding, “No,” if the Bible is any indication. Indeed, Abram was wealthy, yet he found favor with Adonai and became Abraham, the Father of Nations (Genesis 13:2; Genesis 17). Did Adonai tell him to sell all of his possessions? No. That is right. God began his covenant for Israel by making his covenant with a rich man. This is quite the far cry from the notion that God wants all of his believers to sell their possessions. Based on this one example of many, those who interpret Matthew 19:21 as a requirement for all believers to sell everything must be in error. King David was also very wealthy but yet he was still referred to as ‘a man after God’s own heart,’ after becoming the earthly king of Israel (Acts 13:22; 1 Samuel 13:14). Since King David was considered a man after God’s heart even after he became wealthy, it is clear that selling all of your earthly possessions is not a requirement for salvation nor favor with God.
Some will still object by saying that Yeshua said it is harder for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than it is for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (Matthew 19:23-24). It is true that Yeshua said this; however, Yeshua also said, “And looking, Yeshua said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26).”
Based on God’s dealings with wealthy believers, it is easy to determine that those who say the Bible teaches that all believers must sell their possessions are in error. It should be noted, however, that there are instances where God calls people to sell all of their possessions. Those who are called to do so should do so immediately. It is likely because God is either trying to teach them something, their wealth has become a stumbling block to them, or both. God can use a poor, middle class, or rich person mightily in whatever way he chooses. We should take care to remember that God can use different types of people to further his divine plan.
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