Luke 12:32-33 (ESV)

32 “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Is Jesus commanding his disciples in all ages to sell their possessions and give to the needy?
Is Luke 12:33 a universal commandment?

  • 2
    Why do you call it a 'commandment' ? If they inherit an entire heavenly kingdom, what else would they do but give up everything, in any generation, which pertains to the earthly ? It's a welcome release, not a 'commandment'. And what on earth is a 'universal' commandment ? What 'universe' do you mean ? Do you mean the new heavens and the new earth - to which this welcome release pertains ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 7:40
  • 1
    The three verbs, "sell", "give", "make" are all imperative verbs.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 7:49
  • @NigelJ: definition of commandment, definition of universal
    – user38524
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 7:53
  • 1
    Jesus commanded his followers to love one another (John 13:34). On the basis of that explicit commandment his followers will show love in word and in deed, not just to fellow believers, but to their neighbours, even their enemies. "Moneybags that do not grow old" and "treasure in the heavens that does not fail" refers to spiritual wealth and not earthly possessions.
    – Lesley
    Commented Jul 5, 2022 at 10:14

4 Answers 4


The central question here is how far and how literally we must obey the indubitable command of Jesus to:

Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves with purses that will not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. Luke 12:33

Historically, there have been several responses to this command of Jesus:

  • taken absolutely literally as did the hermits of the medieval period who then became completely dependent upon the charity of other for their survival. However, such an attitude appears to be diametrically opposed to Paul's instruction for Christians to be self sufficient as far as circumstances allow as taught in

2 Thess 3:12 - Now we command and exhort to such by our Lord Jesus Christ so that, working with quietness, they may eat their own bread.

  • taken cautiously with a view to practicality and circumstances. This appears to have been the case with the early church, who, while they sold many things to support the work of the early church, did not impoverish themselves so as to prevent them providing further support.

The latter position, which is more consistent with Paul's teaching, as quoted above, is also more consistent with NT practice. However, this does not prevent certain individuals who suffer especially with avarice and acquisitiveness, being properly required to sell their possessions as was the rich young ruler in Matt 19:21.

So how are we to understand Jesus' command in Luke 12:33?

  1. We need to practice more faith and reliance on God to provide without being presumptuous. The instruction to support the Kingdom of God should be tempered with what Paul says in 2 Thess 3:12.
  2. Christians should not be those who acquire much property and possessions for their own sake as Jesus said earlier in the same chapter of the rich fool, Luke 12:13-21. That is, there is nothing wrong with wealthy Christians who are generous toward God (Acts 10:2, etc.)

2 Cor 9:10-12 - Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your store of seed and will increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous on every occasion, so that through us your giving will produce thanksgiving to God. For this ministry of service is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanksgiving to God.

One cannot do this if one has disposed of every means of earning money in order to give to the Kingdom of God. Here are some comments from the commentaries on :


(33) Sell that ye have.—In its generalised form the precept is peculiar to St. Luke, but it has its parallel in the command given to the young ruler. (See Note on Matthew 19:21.) It was clearly one of the precepts which his own characteristic tendencies led him to record (see Introduction), and which found its fulfilment in the overflowing love that showed itself in the first days of the Church of the Apostles (Acts 2:45). Subsequent experience may have modified the duty of literal obedience, but the principle implied in it, that it is wise to sit loose to earthly possessions, possessing them as though we possessed not (1 Corinthians 7:30), is one which has not lost its force.


Sell that ye have - Sell your property. Exchange it for that which you can use in distributing charity. This was the condition of their being disciples. Their property they gave up; they forsook it, or they put it into common stock, for the sake of giving alms to the poor, Acts 2:44; Acts 4:32; John 12:6; Acts 5:2.

Matthew Poole:

Sell that ye have, and give alms, & c. It is a precept of the same import with that, Matthew 19:21 Mark 10:21. Though possibly the precept here given to the disciples of Christ generally is not to be interpreted so strictly as seemeth to be our Saviour’s meaning in those texts, as to the young man. For it seems to have been a special precept to him, laying an obligation upon him to make a present actual sale of all he had, and it is plain that he so understood it. To this Christians are not obliged generally by this precept: but to be ready at the call and command of God to part with all, for such uses as God should show them: not to set their heart on riches, Psalm 62:10; to be ready to distribute, and willing to communicate, 1 Timothy 6:18; remembering that God loveth mercy rather than sacrifice, Hosea 6:6 Matthew 9:13. To give of our superfluities, Luke 3:11.


Sell that ye have, and give alms,.... Since they had a kingdom bequeathed them by their heavenly Father, they should be so far from indulging an anxious care about food and raiment, that when there was a call in providence for it, and rather than the poor should go without a supply, it became them to sell their houses and lands, and whatever possessions they had, and relieve them; and so they did not long after; for some of those who sold their estates, and brought the money to the apostles, Acts 4:34, might be now present; and the more readily and cheerfully do what they did, remembering these words of Christ:


Jesus' audience in this passage in Israel. Matthew 6:25-33 is the parallel passage to this one.

(Matthew 6:32 KJV)  (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

(Matthew 6:33 KJV)  But seek ye first the kingdom of God [seek entry into the kingdom of God], and his righteousness [his pardoning]; and all these things shall be added unto you.

(Matthew 6:34 KJV)  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Jesus here is teaching against materialism and covetousness, as well as teaching them how to be Christ-like [Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:33-34]. If your heart is on earthly things then that goes against other scripture like Colossians 3:1-2.

(Colossians 3:1 KJV)  If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

(Colossians 3:2 KJV)  Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

I would rather call it a universal instruction rather than a commandment. It is true, of those in every dispensation, that if we do good deeds out of a true heart then we will be rewarded with heavenly treasures, an inheritance [Luke 12:33; 2 Timothy 2:12; Ephesians 5:5].

The larger point of the passage actually seems to be prioritizing faith.

(Hebrews 11:6 KJV)  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Habakkuk 2:4 (KJV) Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.

Romans 1:17 (KJV) For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

Galatians 3:11 (KJV) But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Hebrews 10:38 (KJV) Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

Addendum: As Jesus has stressed many times, it is better to live in drastic circumstances (sell all that ye have and give alms) or to sustain drastic injury on earth (maim yourself) than to be whole and not enter into the eternal life. Therefore I don't say this verse is a commandment, but an instruction.

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    I do not see that this is an hermeneutic answer, or indeed any kind of substantiated answer. Listing texts does not form an argument of any kind.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 6, 2022 at 16:40

The passage is clear. SELL YOUR POSESSIONS. Immediately before, Jesus speaks of those of little faith who don’t truly believe in God and that He will provide for them.

The issue is people that don’t have the faith to truly follow Christ. The same who would never die for Him, as they can’t even give up their possessions for Him. So much so that they would twist Scripture to make it agree with their foolish notion.

We are to work and feed ourselves, but never to store up money or possessions. If God told you that His way is to live in “poverty”, as Jesus did, would you? The message is clear for those with ears to hear and eyes to see, or that are willing to.

What Jesus told the rich young ruler was not just for him, as none of Jesus’ other teachings were only directed and meant for an individual. How the wicked twist Scripture just so it agrees with their sin. Amazing.

This is one of those passages that separates the sheep from the goat. Many will come to Him and say Lord, Lord but He will say He never knew them and that they acted as if He never declared a law to them as “followers.”

To one who truly believes, EVERYTHING in this life is trivial. For those with weak or non existent faith, this life is everything and they simply “hope” there is life after. This is in their hearts and God knows these things.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 14:13

It is not a universal commandment, but it is a universal guideline for some Jews, those who possessed eternal life by true fulfillment of the Law.

This concept is the same as applied to the rich young ruler of Matthew 19:16-30 and Luke 18:18-30.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew 19:21 New International Version

The treasure in heaven is not Eternal Life, which originates in this carnal life, but the metaphysical concept of the Kingdom of Heaven and rewards.

The apostle Paul explains and guides the church in 1 Corinthians 3:8-15 (an update of the assembly concept, already guided by the parable of the weeds and the wheat managed by the apostle Peter.

If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward.

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