Sell all of my possessions, Lord? Part 2
2. “Who is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge…” (Luke 12:42) Perhaps the result of one who submits to the call of discipleship by Jesus is that he or she will “give up” or “say farewell to” (14:33) his or her possessions willingly but might not be required to begin their immediate sale. This is especially so before one comes to faith (see Matthew 19:21). This interpretation, that we must be willing to give it all up, has favor from the analogy of the inferior king meeting a more powerful one in battle (Luke 14:31,32). The inferior king (those who hear the gospel call) will, if he is in his right mind, seek “terms of peace” from the king with “twenty thousand” men (God the Father). The gospel call seems to be pictured here. The gospel commands us to seek terms of peace from God or we will be crushed by His great, overpowering army. How does this happen? We give up our rights to everything that is in our territory and become the property of God Almighty. We gain our lives (salvation) by our surrender and He gains us as His subjects. If the person does not “give up all of his own possessions” he will have to face the Lord in battle, and lose (eternal judgment). Now let me note, that this preserves the force of the text, to some extent, and it allows Luke to write the end of the story. The story concludes with us as subjects of God’s kingdom. Better than that, we are stewards of His kingdom. If you glance back to 12:42, and much of Luke deals with possessions and money, you see that following the same command to “sell your possessions and give to charity” (12:33) comes commands to be ready for Christ’s coming again. How do we get ready for the Second Coming of Christ? We do so by being “faithful and sensible steward[s]” who have charge over much of God’s kingdom while He is away for a long journey (12:45). How can we be stewards if we have nothing in our possession. So, it seems fitting that we renounce our right to our own possessions and willingly hand them over to God’s disposal and He in turn gives them back to us to use to His benefit and glory. In fact, in 12:47, we prove ourselves His stewards by not being lazy with what God has “put us in charge of” (12:42). Also, the conclusion in 12:48 is that “we have been given much” and “entrusted with much” (i.e. we still have possessions in our stead), therefore we will be required to give a more detailed account of our use of them. This idea of resultant stewardship and generosity fits well with Acts 5:4, (which Luke also authored). There it says that Ananias and Sapphira willingly sold a piece of property and promised to keep back some of the profit (5:2). However, when this is exposed to Peter, he says “While it (the land) remained unsold did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control?” It was Ananias’ decision to sell the land. F.F. Bruce says, “no compulsion had been laid on Ananias to sell his property,” and that this act, like Barnabas’ in 4:37, was “quite voluntary.”**** It remained his own and was under his control (5:4) and if he decided to give it up it would have been an act of generosity. Also, numerous examples exist where followers of Christ kept some of their finances and even used them to support the kingdom of God (the women who supported Christ “out of their own means” Luke 8:3, the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:34-35, and Cornelius in Acts 10:2). Robert H. Stein, says the following, “The context of 12:33a clearly indicates that the total renunciation of all personal possessions is not the intent of this saying since disciples are expected to have the means to practice a continual generosity (12:33b). At times believers may be called on to sell all their possessions, as in the case of the rich young ruler (18:22), but this is not a universal demand…We must also note the demand to “provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out.” This latter command assumes that one will continue to have the means to give alms, i.e., that one will still have purses out of which to give alms.”*****
Conclusion The conclusion seems to be that we “cannot be a disciple” of Christ if we do not first “say farewell” to the right to all of our possessions. This, to the unbeliever, is a gospel appeal. Why? Because it matters not for an unbeliever to be generous to the poor without first becoming a disciple of the Master. On the other hand, some of God’s subjects might be asked to sell all that they have for a specific reason or test. Let us not rule that out. If that is the case, God will make it clear to them that He desires this. We must be willing to give up all rights in surrender to Christ or we are falling short of the command. In fact, giving up all of our rights is even more radical than giving up only one’s possessions (John MacArthur). In salvation, we are thus blessed and made stewards of God’s kingdom. Now that we have been made God’s stewards we are “entrusted with His possessions” (in context it refers to discipleship) and are commanded to be generous with them. Since we know that every New Testament disciple did not sell all we can fulfill this command by following their examples. We do this by selling some of them for the purpose of giving to those in need “from time to time,” especially within the church. We do this by being spontaneously generous as Barnabas and Cornelius were.
****The Book of the Acts. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1988, 105.
*****Luke. The New American Commentary. Broadman Press: Nashville, 1992, 53.