If you asked yourself, ‘What are some of the things that people try to find joy and fulfillment in?’, provided you live in a somewhat developed part of the world, at some point you’d probably include in your list – things. Stuff. Possessions. Money. Gold. Shoes. Old Baseball cards. And so on. Despite Jesus’ instruction that life does not consist in the abundance of one’s possessions (Lk. 12:15), it’s not uncommon to find those who live like it does. Jesus’ words, you could say, are corroborated by Solomon’s experience. He was a man who had just about everything he wanted to have, and found that everything wasn’t enough.
“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).
In Exodus 32 we see a prime example of what wasting wealth looks like; and not surprisingly, it comes in conjunction with people worshiping the wrong thing. When the children of Israel were about to leave Egypt God gave them favor in the sight of the Egyptians so that their neighbors willingly gave them an abundance of gold and silver (Ex 11:1-3; 12:35, 36). Granted, in those days there weren’t websites and apps at people’s fingertips whereby they could have seemingly instant access to gold and silver’s worth; but nonetheless, it was a very valuable resource and the Israelites left Egypt with a good amount of it as a result of God’s grace.