Posted by: gmscan | October 9, 2011

Sell All That You Possess?

A friend was telling me how hard it is to follow the path Jesus has laid out for us. “It is like walking on the ridge of a mountain,” he said, “one false step to either side and I will fall.” He was feeling great stress and frustration over this.

I replied that God knows how hard it is. In fact, God knows it is impossible for us and he loves us anyway. Don’t worry about falling.  All of mankind has fallen off the path and God has picked us up and healed us. That is God’s grace and that is what we should be grateful for.

I think my friend took some comfort from that idea. We don’t have to worry about being perfect because we will be imperfect no matter what we do. Moses laid out God’s law so we can measure our imperfections. Even God’s chosen ones, David and Solomon, sinned grievously.

Jesus came to free us from that guilt. He came to bear our sins for us so we could be free. The price of sin is death. Jesus took our sins so that we could live. Hallelujah!

That night I was reading Matthew 19:18-22. The same story with slightly different emphases is recounted in Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30.

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he (Jesus) said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

The young rich man says he has kept all the commandments, and asks, “What do I still lack?”

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The Jesus turns to the disciples and says,

“Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

So, what’s going on here? Is Jesus really saying rich people are evil because they are rich? Is he really saying we should sell all our possessions? I don’t think so.

After the disciples ask him, “Who then can be saved” He answers, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

The rich man had asked, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” There is nothing he can do. You can’t earn your way into salvation — “with man this is impossible.” Only God’s grace and God’s forgiveness will do it — “With God all things are possible.”

Jesus has asked the man if he had kept the commandments. He claimed he had. Jesus knew that couldn’t be true, but he wasn’t going to argue with the man. So he added another impossible stipulation – sell all that you have and give it to the poor. He didn’t really expect the man to do that, in fact he knew he couldn’t. But the fellow missed the point Jesus was making – you can’t earn salvation, it can only be given to you as a gift from God.

And that is why it is hard for a rich man to enter heaven. Rich people are accustomed to doing. They are high achievers who expect to be in control. They find it nearly impossible to wait passively for another to give them something for nothing. That isn’t how their world works.

My friend is also a doer. He’s not rich, but he works hard and makes his own way, never asking for favors. He was thinking that to be a good Christian he had to live a nearly perfect life.

I know exactly how he feels. I have never been able to ask anyone for a favor, but I am happy to do favors for others. I have been proud of being a self-made man and willing to take the consequences of my actions, for better or worse.

Meeting Jesus has turned that around. I am not proud of my failings and weaknesses, but I am now willing to acknowledge them and confess them to the Lord, asking humbly that he forgive me. What a relief that I no longer have to carry that load alone.



  1. Our sermon today was on God’s grace. Jesus laid down his life for us because he knew we could never be perfect enough to earn salvation. So thankful.

  2. I’m afraid that if I quizzed our Lord in what I must do he might tell me to never speak again. Amazing Grace that he would lay his life down for my foolish tongue.

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