Must we give up all our possessions to follow Christ?

Every time I read the end of Chapter 19 in the Gospel of Mathew I always get either confused or sad (like the rich man). It seems pretty straightforward that Jesus was saying that anyone who wishes to follow him must sell all their possessions and give it to the poor, yet no one interprets that passage to mean that.

The answer I always get in response is that what Jesus was really saying is that money should never come before God, but that possessing great wealth is not itself a bad thing. Although I agree with the response, it doesn’t seem to me that that was what Jesus was saying… no matter how often I read or think about it, it seems clear to me that he literally meant what he said; “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Perhaps the scariest part is when Jesus says the following; “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

Help me out here guys and gals, I’m not rich by today’s standards, but compared to people back then (including the rich man Jesus was speaking to) I’m filthy rich. Should I be worried about my salvation?

Decide to become a saint, grace will follow. Believe me.

Here, Jesus establishes a maximum program for every single one of us. To love one another self-sacrificially, giving away everything we have, even our lives.

Some people are married and have children - they leave their estate to the children for the sake of increasing our Church. Some people are single - they leave their estate for charities after their death. Some people are called to religious life and abandon all earthly possessions while still living.

The wealth is not the purpose of our life. The use of our wealth for worthy purposes - that is our task.

NO! we must give up all attachments to possessions and the things we have made into Idols in order to enter heaven. To fallow Christ is to love him and all others like yourself!

The apostles had homes, clothes, boats, nets, tools etc…

During Jesus’ time wealth and possessions were considered a sign of God’s favor. Jesus rejects wealth as a claim to enter the kingdom. It is based on God’s given graces. Take the parable in this context.

NABRE notations:
** [10:23–27] In the Old Testament wealth and material goods are considered a sign of God’s favor (Jb 1:10; Ps 128:1–2; Is 3:10). The words of Jesus in Mk 10:23–25 provoke astonishment among the disciples because of their apparent contradiction of the Old Testament concept (Mk 10:24, 26). Since wealth, power, and merit generate false security, Jesus rejects them utterly as a claim to enter the kingdom. Achievement of salvation is beyond human capability and depends solely on the goodness of God who offers it as a gift (Mk 10:27).*

Good question and I have often had the same thoughts, especially when I WAS married to a man of great wealth. Yes, he gave to charity but often I felt it was not enough given how comfortably we lived with our children. FF to years later, after a divorce ( now annulled) and I am near the poverty level which has left me much more appreciative of what I do have; safe housing, enough food, an old car for I was once nearly homeless.

I will look forward as well to reading the answers…


It also means detachment from the lovely things we may have. Perhaps we have been given a gift of beautiful China dishes for a wedding gift. If we use them and over the years some break, are we upset over it?

Your favorite item of clothing gets a large splash of stain on it. Do you praise the Lord, and then forget about it?

What I am trying to say is that detachment from the items we prize is something to pray for. The more we surrender, the more God can provide what we need.

I am sure there are many more scenarios one can think of…with items such as cars, appliances, etc.

Well said, Dorothy. :thumbsup:


We do not have to give up our possessions. But we have to give up our attachment to them. If we are attached to possessions it is unhealthy and rooted in selfish behavior.

Jesus knew that the rich man was attached to his wealth, so he asked him to give it up, but the man refused the call of Christ to keep his things. We are not to do the same.

Yeah, but they didn’t have televisions, tablets, iphones, air conditioning etc… they also didn’t have extra money to spend on week long vacations, concerts, sporting events etc.

Wow, this is helpful, thanks for sharing.

In practical circumstances though, what’s the difference? We could all easily give up things we don’t need and give it to the poor/Church but yet we choose not to. For example, during the hot summer months I drink around 12-16 beers a month, is it a sin for me to spend money on beer when I could simply drink water instead and give away the money I saved? If not, wouldn’t that mean that I’m attached to that possession?

Also, if that was what Jesus meant why didn’t he explicitly make that distinction?:shrug:

This is a saintly idea. Though I sense a extremely considerable morally known scrupulousness. You’re in good shape.

For the reason that you have already been told. Different culture.
I think you probably know the difference between need and want. Common sense.

I’m sorry, I’m not sure I understand. I know for example that I don’t need beer, does that mean that I must give it up?

It means nothing to excess.
Beer’s a fine beverage. but no one needs many of them at one sitting.

Must give it up?

Oh, no.

If you’re doing anything like that because you feel you must, you’re better off not even bothering.

It means that if you are so attached to it that you don’t give to the church, serve Christ, or it gets in the way of discipleship then it is a problem.

If it doesn’t than its not.

A good way to test yourself might be to give it up for a while for the Lord, not permanently, but to demonstrate to yourself that you aren’t attached…like a Lenten sacrifice.

I have a friend that is really into movies. He had a DVD collection (back before streaming) that was the envy of everyone. You wanted a movie, you went to him to borrow it. He took a lot of pride in it and began to realize his identity was too wrapped up in it. So he gave them all away to prove to himself that the DVD S WERE not his God and were not an idol. The DVDs weren’t just a footnote in his life, they were a central part.

That’s what the rich man could have done. That’s what we all should do with things that hinder our call to conversion in Christ.

Follow him.

Ps. I drink beer!

It’s funny you mention that, giving up all alcohol was part of my Lent. I understand what your saying, and it makes good sense, but I really want to be careful not to rationalize bad behavior (if it is indeed bad) due to convenience. That being said, when given the choice between giving money to the Church or beer, the Church is always more important. Therefore, wouldn’t choosing beer kind of like choosing earthly possessions over God?

Also, as a side note, I remember reading later in the Gospel of Mathew that there was a “rich man” who was also described as a “disciple of Christ”, could it be argue that that passage shows that one can have great wealth and still be a faithful member?

In fact, we do interpret it in the way that you seem to think we don’t. Some are called to do this…normally in the context of the Consecrated Life. Which is why consecrated life is classically termed a “state of perfection.” It is a vocation for some…but not all. Each has a serious duty and responsibility to carefully discern what the Lord calls them to in terms of their lives. Those who enter Religious Life, by profession of vow, renounce private ownership of anything – all they have is held by their Religious Community. The story of Saint Antony Abbot well encapsulates how this can be, literally, what one is called to.

On the other hand, if one is called to married life and to bring a family into being, the radical life of, for example, the Missionaries of Charity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who own but two saris, is not remotely feasible.

The particular vocation to which we are called dictates the extent to which this evangelical counsel can be effectively lived.

The saying about a camel passing through the eye of a needle is an architectural reference in the ancient world that has to be understood according to the usage then. It is not a camel literally passing through the eye of a sewing needle.

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