“Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys.” (Lk. 12:33)
If you’re not tied down and preoccupied with stuff you’re free to use stuff to please God. The rich fool, whose story precedes this exhortation, was preoccupied with where he could store his goods (Lk. 12:16-21), whereas Jesus wanted His disciples to sell and give (vs.33). Namely, He told them to give “alms.” The Greek word for alms comes from the Greek word eleos, which means “mercy” or “pity” or “compassion.” Thus, “alms” refer to gifts of compassion or mercy that people bestow on others in need. It’s the kind of thing that we see the early church do often in the book of Acts (Acts 2:45; 11:27-30).
When you do this, Jesus said you “provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys”(vs.33b). Material treasures are unreliable but this treasure is well protected and secure. Whereas the stock market can go up and down, these investments have consistent and enduring value. That idea is connoted in the metaphor of money bags which do not grow old. Earthly purses don’t last. They deteriorate. They breakdown. They develop holes. Earthly storage is liable to thieves. And clothing, particularly in the culture in which Jesus lived, was liable to being eaten by moths – remember this was before the invention of mothballs.
The application from Jesus’ words here is not ‘everyone take a vow of poverty,’ the application is – don’t live a life where the collective evidence of your behavior and purchases suggest that you are hoarding up treasures for yourself and are not rich towards God. Jesus was telling His disciples that they were free. They didn’t have to cling to the things that support life. They didn’t have to store up treasures on earth; rather, they were free to sell and give and use their resources for the purposes of Heaven – investments that were of eternal value.
If you know who you are in Christ, as well as the freedom you have and the treasure that is yours in Christ, you can take kingdom-driven risks based upon the dependability of God. You can do something like William Borden and not be out of your mind.
No Reserve. No Retreats. No Regrets.
William Borden was a son of privilege. He was an heir to the Borden Dairy Estate. In 1904, when he graduated from high school his parents sent him on a trip around the world for a graduation present. As he traveled through Asia, the Middle East, and Europe, he sensed a growing burden for the mission field. It was during this time that William knew he wanted to give his life for missions. He wrote home to his family telling them that he wanted to give his life for the calling of missions, and it was during that same time in his life that he wrote two words in the back of his Bible:
He went to Yale University, started a small campus group that had a great effect (and that’s an understatement compared to the way it’s communicated in his biography), and it was during this time he decided that he wanted to minister to Muslims in China. After graduating, he received offers for several high-paying jobs but he turned them all down. It was during this time that he wrote two more words in the back of his Bible:
He enrolled in Princeton Seminary, and after graduating, he went to Egypt to study Arabic and the Koran. While in Egypt he contracted spinal meningitis and within a month he died at the age of twenty-five. Shortly before dying he wrote two more words in his Bible:
I don’t think it would be uncommon for someone to hear that story and think, “What a waste.” If you measure significance by results, I can see why that would be your conclusion. But if you correlate significance with displaying the surpassing worth of Christ, you quickly see a glimpse of the worth of William Borden’s life. Though he was the heir to a million dollar estate, his life and commitment to the advancement of God’s kingdom displayed Jesus as being more precious than millions of dollars. And we’re still talking about it today…
When you and I are not tied down to stuff, we are free to use stuff, or leave stuff, for the glory of God.