Do I Need to Give Away All My Possessions to Get to Heaven?

Question: In Mark 10:17-30, Jesus tells a man to give away all of his possessions in order to inherit eternal life. Do I need to give away all of my possessions if I want to spend eternity with Jesus?

Some read this passage (and it’s cross-references, Mt 19:16-22 and Lk 18:18-25) literally and have given over all they have to follow their call to discipleship. Some dismiss it as impossible, and give it no further thought. Others have considered this passage with great seriousness, even while noticing that Jesus didn’t ask the same of every person who followed him. It is in this tension of taking Jesus’ words seriously while discerning God’s unique will for each of us that perhaps offers the best hope for enlightenment.

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of passages in the Bible warning of the dangers of wealth and possessions, and Jesus consistently preached this theme. It is especially relevant to those of us who are affluent and/or live in the United States, the richest country in the world.
If we are uncomfortable with this story, we might ask ourselves what we need to take seriously about Jesus’ challenge, rather than dismissing it by “spiritualizing” the message. Why might we insist on taking other of Jesus’ words literally, but not these? What if Jesus knew that this particular man was being held captive by his possessions and wouldn’t find freedom/eternal life until he gave them away? Is that the case for you? For me? Maybe we need to answer, “How much of what we own would Jesus want us to give away?” Do we find our security in how much money we have stored up, or in God? No one can answer these questions for you – they have to be discerned carefully with God’s help.