This is our third and final blog considering the parable of the rich fool. Catch up on the first and second entries and then let’s look at these last verses together. After telling the story Jesus commands:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (v32-33).
I think most of us who grew up in an around Christian communities have heard those final words about treasures and hearts, but maybe not that opening line so much . . .
Sell your possessions . . .
Often this admonition is spiritualized or converted into a mindset. We are told Jesus didn’t mean “sell your possessions.” He meant we shouldn’t put our things or our wealth above God or we must be willing to sell our possessions. While both of these things are true this is not what Jesus said and I think we must have good reason to assign to Jesus’ words alternative meanings. Especially when these alternatives are more palatable. I think Jesus meant what he said. This was not a metaphor or a story about a mindset. Jesus said sell your possessions and I think he meant sell your possessions. Maybe not all of your possessions, but selling some, most or all is much more in line with his message than any other interpretation.
He was trying to explain how to be rich toward God. His commands both before and after the story (which also of course illustrates his point) are meant to explain to us how to do this.
Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (v15) and do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes (v22-23).
Jesus is urging us to focus on what matters and what we can control. In his book, Freedom of Simplicity, Richard Foster offers insight on the how and why of this focus: “Jesus is not telling us to refrain from making provision . . . no, we work, but we work in faith, not in the anxious concern of distrust.” He later emphasizes that when a spirit “of trust (in Christ) pervades all of our efforts, we understand the unwisdom of borrowing evil from tomorrow.”
And then Jesus says:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (v32-33)
This command needs to be seen in the context of the command about worrying, which calls us to focus on our dependence on the Lord and his character. If we recognize our dependence on the Lord and are focusing on Him we will hold our possessions with a looser grasp. Discussing this passage in her book, Wealth as Peril and Obligation, Sondra Ely Wheeler says “faith is absolutely essential to the reality perspective on which this passage relies . . . It is faith in God’s providence, yes but even more it is faith in Jesus’ proclamation if the kingdom as the proper point of orientation for a human life.”
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (v33)
It is only through our faith and trust in Jesus that we can live so counter-culturally as to situate our treasure, that which we value most, not in things or money or the influence and power they can bring us but in God himself – investing ourselves in loving him and our neighbor.
How can you live today rich toward God?