Sell all your stuff and give to the poor!

By Joel A. Hess

Sell all your stuff and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Seriously!

I’m not sure most people take Jesus’ response to the rich young man seriously. The guy asks a valid question. Bravo to this kid. What do I have to do to inherit eternal life? That’s the question! It’s the question behind all religions. Every single one. It’s the problem too. We are all dying. We don’t want to die, and that’s it. Or worse, we don’t want to entertain the possibility that we will literally never see our dearly loved friends and family again.

It doesn’t matter who you are, what your background is, what lies you tell yourself in the day. At some point, everyone wonders about death and life. Sure, people avoid the question with soccer games, career moves, trips to Disneyworld, or even philanthropy (gasp!). But when you are anxiously waiting by the phone for the doctor to tell you everything is OK, you think about eternal life. When you wake up with a shudder at 3 a.m. realizing that your job might not be there tomorrow, your kid might be struggling with sexual identity, or there just might be an infinite dark space below us all, you think about eternal life.

I love this guy who cuts all the BS with Jesus and simply says it. If only more preachers preached like this fellow. What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?

Of course, Jesus fails to answer the question straight up as usual. His answers are always cutting. Yet ultimately He answers all questions with His arms outstretched on the cross, buried in the grave, and raised victoriously in the resurrection. But Jesus does answer it. He says, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except for God.” Bam! That’s your answer, dude. What can I do? Well, nothing. You kind of suck.

Jesus goes on and lists the second half of the Ten Commandments. The sincere student responds like my preschoolers, “I have done everything right since my boyhood.” I bet he has too. He seems like a real nerd, right? Don’t kid yourself. This dude is better than you! He was probably like Paul. He excelled at everything. If anyone was going to be good enough to just prance right into heaven it would be this guy. I bet he never swore and gave 10% in the offering plate.

In chapter 10, Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Don’t take it for granted that Jesus looked at this guy. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. It’s good to have God look at you, although it can hurt. And Jesus loved this idiot. He loved him so much that He smashed all his dreams!

Jesus said, “One thing you lack. Go sell all your stuff and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

Think about it. How easy is that! Oh sure, you think Jesus was kidding. No sir. Jesus is joking about eternal life? He’s serious! Think about it, friends. How easy is this? Sell all you have and give it to the poor. That’s all you have to do to know you will live forever! That’s easier than the vampire and Faustus stories where people make pacts with the devil! If you truly believed that you could live forever if you sold all your stuff, wouldn’t you do it? That’s really not a crazy demand.

But the kid walked away sad, and so would you. There are a lot of little devils out there who use this story to teach about the importance of giving to the poor. The preacher hopes that maybe he can encourage his congregation to give to the needy more. As if Jesus is even talking about that. Jesus doesn’t tell the guy to give more. He says all. I bet this kid gave more to the poor than you ever will. But Jesus said all.

The kid couldn’t do it, and neither can you. And it’s easy. Seriously, if that’s all you have to do to live forever, it’s easy. But we are idiots. That’s what sin does. It makes you stupid. It messes us up so bad we don’t recognize a good deal when we see one.

This guy learned the stranglehold sin had on him, if he learned anything. I hope you do too.

Yet that’s Jesus’ point. He hopes to rob us all of any possible illusion that we think we can actually follow Him. Give up everything for Him. Pay the cost of discipleship. Good Lord, just before this event Jesus clearly told His disciples that only babies inherit the kingdom of heaven. Only useless, worthless, helpless, unrighteous infants.

Jesus caused this guy to fumble his football only to pick it up himself. With His words He strips us of righteousness. With His action He gives us everything. This same Jesus did everything required to inherit eternal life. He did alone. All his disciples scattered. No one could follow him.

He did it alone! Thank you very much. He did what this kid and we are unable to do. He gave up everything, even His life. And He gave it to the poor: you and me. Thank you, Lord!

What do I have to do to inherit eternal life? NOTHING. You can’t do anything. Zilch. Jesus did it all and gives it to you! That’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus. If anyone tells you otherwise, he is stealing the treasure Jesus gave you. If anyone tries to distinguish between believers and disciples, he is blaspheming God and robbing poor sinners of Jesus’ gift to them.

Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest! Jesus.