Sell everything you have and give the money to the poor


Matthew 19:21
Should Catholics go and sell all their possessions and give all their money to the poor and then live homeless under a bridge? I appreciate the reaction of the rich man who became sad and walked away when he heard this. Was the rich man right and was Jesus wrong in asking him to sell everything that he had? It is pretty tough to give all your money to the poor and then have to live homeless under a rock or in a cave for the rest of your life. Especially if you are in Maine or Montana, because the winters can be pretty severe there. And if you get sick, then what? You have given away all your money to the poor and the doctors are not going to treat you if you don’t have any money and the drugstores aren’t going to give away medication. Also it costs money to take a shower. Was the rich man right in not selling everything he had and giving all his money to the poor? Suppose he gave a lot of money to charity and thought that was enough, Would he then go to hell because he did not give everything he had to the poor?


This was a directive for that young man.

It is not a universal call.

God does not want me, for instance, to sell everything and give to the poor because I have a husband and children to care for.

However, my good friend is a religious sister. She sold everything she had before she entered the convent. That is her vocation.

She is NOT penniless because her order provides for her needs. But she owns nothing.

We are called to do what God asks us.

In the case of the young man Jesus was LITERALLY calling him to a priestly (or perhaps even Bishop or first Pope) vocation. Jesus knew the young man’s heart, and He knew the plans that God had for the young man. Jesus was literally asking him “Come, follow me”.

The young man was a case of denying his vocation. It’s not about the money, it’s about trusting God with your vocation.


It is all about priorities. If he was so rich then he could definitely have given 95% of what he had to the poor and still live well enough on the 5%. In other words do for others FIRST and God will take care of you and your needs. Jesus knows we have needs but He wants us also to take care of our brothers and sisters in need. If we are eating steak every night and our neighbor because of health issues, age, inability to work lives on a fixed income and eats beans then we are responsible to make sure they have the proper food and care for themselves. We can do that for them. If we get a huge turkey as a bonus but we already have one in the freezer then why not give it to somebody with a family that you are sure doesn’t have that luxury. It can be simple but mean so much.


PRUDENCE & charity to the point of some suffering is the MORAL in the times in which we live. BUT my friend this can be giving of yourself; your time and your talents as well as monetary considerations.

The Typical parish has 5% to 10% of its population doing 100% of ALL that needs to be done. Hint, HINT

PRAY about ti,




Jesus had some rich followers who didn’t do this. Nicodemus wasn’t poor. Joseph of Arimathea, who donated Jesus’ tomb and paid for the burial expenses like embalming spices, was obviously wealthy. There are other people throughout the Bible who are wealthy enough to do things like host the prophets and disciples when they come to town to spread God’s word. So obviously this was not a universal command.

Let’s also remember when the young man approached Jesus and asked what he should do to gain eternal life, the first response was that he should follow the commandments. The young man said he did that already and asked what more he could do, which was when Jesus suggested selling all of his possessions, giving the money to the poor, and then coming and following him. In other words, come be an apostle. The young man could not bring himself to do this “extra step” and went away sad. It is quite clearly an extra step.

Maybe Jesus sensed that this young man was feeling a call but struggling with it and gave him a “hard teaching” that the guy was unable to follow at that moment. We don’t know what happened to him after that. Maybe he later did just what Jesus suggested, for all we know.

I see this story as telling us not that we should all get rid of everything we own and sleep in a tent under a bridge - I note that Jesus himself wasn’t even doing that, and seems to have been staying with friends a lot of the time, or in rooms provided by innkeepers and such, and in addition, religious communities have often tried to do some things to build a self-sustaining community so they did not become a public charge having to take food, shelter and other necessities from the local area where they lived (a big deal back then when food was scarce). I see the story as telling us to look at our lives and what we have and what we need and what we can share with others who are in need. In other words, be moderate and responsible. A few people will actually be able to follow Jesus’ suggestion and perhaps they will be more blessed for it, but Jesus is clearly not expecting it of everyone. If he was, then his mother wouldn’t have had a house, his friends wouldn’t have had houses for him to stay in, Joseph of Arimathea wouldn’t have had a tomb handy, etc.


Context! Who was our Lord speaking to?


I can’t find who spoke about this–but I know it was someone with a decent amount of authority. They (I’m pretty sure it was a priest) spoke of how this story was highlighting a lost vocation. We see the calling of the 12 and them dropping everything for Jesus. We make the assumption that if Jesus was right in front of them it was easy to do so. This highlights that no–it wasn’t.

That one can even be face to face with Our Lord and still deny that they have a priestly (apostolic) vocation.


This is how I tend to understand the story too, especially in view of Jesus’ first answer about following the commandments. There is also another section of several Gospels where Jesus says to a man, “Follow me” and the man says, “Let me go bury my father and then I’ll follow you” (understood as he had to go take care of his father until Dad dies and then he can join Jesus) and Jesus responds with “Let the dead bury their dead” which seems really heartless, in view of the commandment about “Honor your father and mother”, unless it is understood as someone with a vocation denying the call.

Unfortunately I have usually heard the “camel through the eye of a needle” gospel in conjunction with a homily about how we all buy too much stuff. The last time was in a fairly well-off area but at a weekday Mass in front of a congregation of the type of devout elderly folks you see at the weekday Mass, none of whom looked like they were out throwing money around at the mall, and all of whom looked like they probably had been supporting the church and the poor for decades.


We should be willing to part with any earthly possession if it comes between us and Christ.


How very unfortunate that a priest would manipulate Jesus’ words in that way. That is a very sad thing, indeed.


Sometimes I wonder what happened to him–like did he resist the call at first (we know he did) but change his mind later?
Scripture doesn’t even say his name…


So true.

We hold the apostles in such high esteem. We know so much about many of them.

Yet we know nothing about this man. Was it purposeful?

It would be interesting to get a follow-up, but alas, we have no idea what happened to him.

Actually, I’m smelling a spin-off thread. What historical NT person does the Bible “abandon” but you’d like to hear more about. What did the lepers do with their lives? What about the daughter of Jarus? Etc.


Actually I’d love to know more about pretty much all of them.
Somebody wrote an entire acclaimed novel imagining the life of Barabbas after he was released. It was made into a movie three times, the best-known one starring Anthony Quinn. Of course, in “Risen”, Barabbas gets killed almost immediately after he is released.


Another context that passage is not part of is modern economics, both micro and macro. On the micro side, in Jesus’ time, you could be materially poor and still be productive at whatever you wanted to do. It was an agrarian, manual labor-intensive economy. Anyone willing to work hard could always get work to at least feed themselves. In today’s economy, you need some working capital to be productive, even if what you want to be productive at is serving the Lord.

Look at priests today, who take a vow of poverty. Most of them still need a car to get around with, a rectory to live in, a computer and a cell phone to stay in touch and a wardrobe that makes them look like someone you would walk up and talk to. Some even have a paid office staff. And there are some bishops and up who follow their vow of poverty in anything but poverty.

Looking at macro-economics, if everyone gave away everything they owned and followed an ascetic spiritual lifestyle, it would not be long before The Church itself would be impoverished. It is the rich and the middle class who fund most of good works The Church does. If we were all poor, say goodbye to nice churches, the missions, Catholic Charities, the Vatican, etc.

I think it is more important to shed your spiritual “possessions,” like your pride, and become poor in spirit, than to do it materially.


Yeah, I don’t mean to put down my priests because I know they work hard, I have spent some personal time with them, and I generally like them, though they have their little quirks and I’m not one to be constantly trying to be the priest’s buddy (I figure they get enough of that from certain other parishioners). But one priest gets up there on Thanksgiving and talks about how he put on Thanksgiving dinner for his entire family of 20+ people in the rectory and fed them prime rib. He has nice china because he inherited it from a deceased old man who he used to visit in seminary, and he donated the leftover prime rib to a shelter, but the point is, he has nice things to entertain a large group and enough money to buy more than enough fancy dinner for a large group on a holiday. The other priest just got back from an extended vacation in Mexico, and while I do not begrudge him his vacation and I am sure he was traveling on a budget, perhaps staying in monasteries or whatever to save money on accommodations, he still had the money to fly quite a long distance to Mexico (these priests are nowhere near the border) and cover his basic travel expenses to four or five destinations.

When priests are doing these things, they can certainly preach to us that we should remember the poor as we eat our dinner and go on our vacations, and donate to them, and the priests do preach that. But they can’t tell us “give up all your money and live in a tent” when they themselves are not living that way.


So it is wrong then to sell everything you have and give it to the poor?


It’s not “wrong” as long as you are using common sense. If you are a single person and you decide to sell all you own, get a cheap room, and spend your time doing charitable work, then fine. I have known activists and clergy who did these things, by choice.

If, on the other hand, you have children, a spouse, or an elderly parent depending on your income, and you decide to ditch them, sell all your stuff (which might include stuff your spouse has a joint ownership in), give away your money, and go live on the cheap, then you may not be meeting your responsibilities to them. I believe Mitch Snyder did something like this - left his wife and children to go be a poor broke activist in DC. I didn’t think that was particularly holy or heroic.

And if you do all these things and then expect people to just donate money to support you going forward, or you expect to live in a tent pitched in the city park where there are “no camping” laws, then you are being unreasonable and need to stop.


But there is another passage which says “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters–yes, even their own life–such a person cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26.


Jesus was speaking primarily to an audience of Jewish people who were likely to be criticized or persecuted by other Jewish people, including their own family members, for following Christ. He didn’t mean that we should all start hating our families, as 1) Jesus was against people hating other people in general; 2) He told people to keep the commandments, which include “Honor your father and mother”; 3) His general activities such as loving His own mother Mary, raising a man’s beloved daughter from the dead, participating in the family life of siblings Martha, Mary and Lazarus, and performing his first miracle at a wedding showed that He cared about families. Jesus’ teaching is generally interpreted as meaning, if your father or mother or other relative comes between you and your belief in Jesus, then you need to reject that family member and follow Jesus.


It was a call meant for him, to be become another apostle of his.

Just a random thought but imagine the state of the Church if he said yes. I think Fr Mike was the one who brought up this. If one extra apostle went to say, China…how different would everything be

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