The Invisible Challenge of Materialism
In our Bible class study of the Gospel of Mark, we recently had a discussion on the strange command Jesus gave to the religious commandment-follower we know as the rich young ruler: “One thing you lack: sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)
The Strange Command of Jesus
I call it a “strange command” because we don’t see Jesus or the apostles give that command to anyone else. Three other instances come close, but are not quite the same: (1) The apostles were called to leave their nets and follow Jesus, but they weren’t called to sell all their possessions before doing so. Quite a sacrifice, but not as big as what Jesus asks the rich young ruler for. (2) The examples in the Jerusalem church in Acts show people selling their possessions to give to the poor (Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:32-37), but even that seems to be voluntary and not commanded, for Peter told Ananias that when he owned his property he could’ve done what he wanted with both the property and the money (Acts 5:4). Also, the faithful Jerusalem Christians didn’t sell everything, for people like Mark’s mother still had their own house (Acts 12:12). (3) To my knowledge, the closest Jesus comes to this command anywhere else is in Luke 12:33-34: “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Luke 12:33-34) Even there, Jesus doesn’t seem to be saying to sell “all” you possess as He commanded the rich young ruler.