Why does Mt. 19:21 say to make money off one's possessions and give the money to the poor:

Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

instead of giving one's possessions directly to the poor:

Jesus saith to him: If thou wilt be perfect, go give what thou hast to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.


  • The details of the transactions involved are not the point here. The point is that the young man's attachment to his possessions is what stands between him and salvation. I would be inclined to think that the distinction between the two alternatives you present is one of practicalities and cultural norms. Nov 20, 2022 at 15:53

5 Answers 5


Perhaps this simplistic explanation can work: when you give something for a charity, it is not enough just to think about your convenience, but a convenience of a receiver. For instance, if I have an antiquarian vase that costs approx. 3000 British pounds, and I give it to a children asylum, such a charity is good, but not enough good, for I create an inconvenience for the asylum administration putting on them a burden of taking the vase to an antiquarian shop and selling it, for they need money, not vase.

Thus, a better form of charity will be to take also this burden on your shoulders, sell the vase at the antiquarian shop and take the crisp cash of 3000 British sterlings to the asylum.

As in old Georgian proverb: “When doing a graceful deed, apply also a salt to it”, in “salt” is meant this additional effort to provide a convenience to a beneficiary.

  • This is like the flip side of "don't look a gift horse in the mouth"...
    – Andy
    Nov 20, 2022 at 23:47

Something that is very interesting is the difference between the two words used in verses. Matthew 19 :21 and 22 often translated possessions.

Go sell your "huparcho" Translated as possessions in most Bibles.

◄ 5225. huparchó ► Strong's Concordance huparchó: to begin, to be ready or at hand, to be Original Word: ὑπάρχω Part of Speech: Verb Transliteration: huparchó Phonetic Spelling: (hoop-ar'-kho) Definition: to begin, to be ready or at hand, to be Usage: I begin, am, exist, am in possession

5225 hypárxō (from 5223 /hýparksis, "under" and 757/arxō, "begin, go first") – properly, already have (be in possession of); what exists, especially what pre-exists, i.e. is already under one's discretion (note the prefix hypo).

Now in verse 22, It says he had many ktema, Often translated possessions or wealth.

  1. ktéma ► Strong's Concordance ktéma: a possession Original Word: κτῆμα, ατος, τό Part of Speech: Noun, Neuter Transliteration: ktéma Phonetic Spelling: (ktay'-mah) Definition: a possession Usage: a piece of landed property, a field; plur: possessions, property, possibly landed property, property in land

Perhaps a more accurate translation would be land, Which we often say as our property.

This word seems to do with the land and is used in a couple other scriptures.

They sold their land.

They sold their lands and other property, and distributed the proceeds among all, according to every one's necessities. Acts 2:45

Berean Literal Bible Now a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a property.

Understanding that this refers to him having many acquisitions , or properties is to hard for him to let go of and sell.

Here is an interesting commentary from the Concordant literal.

When Israel entered the land, each one received an allotment sufficient for a living. This could not be sold out right. It could only be mortgaged till the next Jubilee. With some exceptions, no one could acquire much land without encroaching on the allotments others. That is why it is so difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom. He must of necessity lose his riches and enter poor. This is the position of this rich youth. He had great acquisitions. This was land which God had allotted to others for their living, but which they had lost through poverty.

His superfluous wealth meant distress for them. He claimed to keep the law, and no doubt he had never murdered or robbed anyone, for he had no provocation to commit flagrant offenses. The Lord very simply suggests that he act in accordance with his profession. He did not ask him to give up his own means of livelihood. He could never expect him to relinquish his own allotment, for that was given by God. All he desired was that he should return to others their allotments. This is what God's law does at the Jubilee.

So another in other words, the Lord wanted him to keep his allotment but sell all the other ones he had acquired from those who had lost theirs in poverty which he may of acquired. He was unable to do this. Bingo, the Lord revealed to this young man his weakness, His inability to perform what Jesus had asked him to do.

Now hearing this word, the youth came away sorrowing, for he had many acquisitions. Matthew 19: 22 Concord literal


The operative verb in Matt 19:21 is πωλέω (póleó) meaning -

to exchange or barter, to sell (Strongs)

Thus, the verb does not exclusively mean to sell or buy; but includes exchange or barter. Thus, there is nothing in the meaning of this verb to exclude the possibility that some possessions were donated to the poor.


Selling and giving are two different acts. You are interpreting it as selling the possessions to the poor. But it is saying selling the possessions, and giving the poor the money gained from it, and or the things obtained by selling. The "money" is implied in the verse. So, some translations:

New Living Translation
Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

International Standard Version
Jesus told him, "If you want to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the destitute, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come back and follow me."

Why shouldn't the man directly give his possessions to the poor? The poor don't need his possessions, they need basic needs like food and clothes. He would be burdening them for the task of selling the possessions to get money, which he should better be doing. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean money here, but anything from the sale or exchange for his possessions.

  • Yes, I know. I'm wondering why Jesus tells the rich young man to make money off his possessions and give the money to the poor instead of just giving his possessions directly to the poor.
    – Geremia
    Nov 19, 2022 at 17:15
  • 1
    bec the poor need basic needs, money, food etc, not his possessions.
    – Michael16
    Nov 19, 2022 at 17:16
  • 1
    He's not telling the young man to make any kind of profit from the sale. He's telling him to give up these possessions in order to help the poor. Selling them and handing over the proceeds saves the beneficiary of the hassle of selling them.
    – EvilSnack
    Nov 19, 2022 at 20:44

I imagine that this is simply the practical issue of the convenience of money. Suppose, for instance, that the rich guy has a gold Rolex watch. It would be more useful to sell it and use the money for (for instance) food than to give the watch to a needy person. Similarly, it would be easier to sell a useful item -- say, a bicycle -- immediately than to wait until one found a particular case for whom it would be useful... although by the same token I don't think Jesus was expressly ruling out the foregoing.

  • 1
    This is basically the same as the answer by Levan. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Nov 20, 2022 at 21:52
  • This is thoughtful, but it might get more upvotes from other users if it discussed text from the Bible more. Users visit this site for the discussion on the text itself. If you have any thoughts that include the text, feel free to add them.
    – Jesse
    Nov 21, 2022 at 0:04
  • @agarza I would have thought that it is fairly obvious that not giving a gold Rolex to a poor person is not about the convenience of using money for the transaction. I do not see Levan quoting the Bible text any more than I did. (The question assumes that the issue is hermeneutical. My answer implies that it is not. This site is systematically incapable of understanding this.) I am taking the downvoting as a person attack, as usual. [Also: "different from".] p.s. Your assumption that God is not capable of speaking also to the modern reader needs establishing.
    – Carsogrin
    Nov 25, 2022 at 15:13
  • @Carsogrin It is not about who was quoting from the Bible. Your answer is making the same point as a previous answer. As for the DV, you can feel however you like, but FYI I did not give it. "Your assumption that God" - when did I make an assumption?
    – agarza
    Nov 25, 2022 at 15:18

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