“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Luke 12:32-34 NIV.
These words from Jesus are from His Sermon on the Mount. The sentences seem to follow one another in constant contradiction. Jesus begins by saying, “Do not be afraid.” Then He tells His listeners to sell their possessions and give to the poor. Now don’t you think that people who sell their possessions and give the money away might have put themselves in a tenuous position? Wouldn’t it seem logical that this might be something that would actually make them fearful?
And to further complicate the issue Jesus tells the group to “provide purses for yourselves that won’t wear out.” You would think they might have needed purses when they had money, but they just gave the money to the poor, didn’t they?
And why is Jesus so sure that the people can give their money to the poor without becoming poor themselves? Check out the phrase after “Do not fear.” Jesus is happy to inform His followers that the Father has been pleased to give them the kingdom. Past tense. Done deal.
Jesus taught in parables. Maybe a modern parable would help us to understand what Jesus is saying.
There was a young man who was barely getting by. He had a low paying job, a shabby car and a small home that needed many repairs. His mother had died when he was young, so he had grown up in a series of foster homes. He had never met his father.
One day he received a letter from a lawyer in the neighboring town telling him that his father was actually a very wealthy man. The wealthy father had died and in his will indicated that he wanted this son to have everything he possessed. The lawyer had written to invite the young heir to come immediately to take possession of his inheritance: a large estate, complete with cars, servants and a hefty bank account.
Do you think this young man would have any trouble selling his meager home and car and giving the proceeds of that sale to the poor? He had so much treasure waiting in the neighboring town that he would miss none of the money he got from selling his shabby stuff. And, anyway, he knew what it was like to be poor. So he is able to give the proceeds away gladly.
Now does Jesus command seem so outlandish? Not at all. The problem for most people is either not knowing God as their Father, or not believing that He has already provided for them all the treasure they could possibly want or need.
Oh Lord, grant us the faith to recognize the true treasure of heaven so that the things of this world become secondary to the future glory you have prepared for us. For where a person’s treasure is, there you will find his or her heart also.