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Jesus, himself, said this:

Matthew 19:21 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.

Ref. http://biblehub.com/matthew/19-21.htm

And yet, Jesus clearly had some money that was kept, for Judas was, according to John, 'the one who held the purse.'

My question is, when Jesus was a carpenter, did he give his wages directly to the poor immediately after having earned them? It would seem contradictory if he would have kept the money he earned and spent it on himself - for that would not be "perfect" by his description in Matthew 19:21.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by David Stratton, Peter Turner, Narnian, wax eagle Jul 29 '13 at 15:59

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
I do remember reading the gospel of Luke, in which there is a single verse about Jesus' saying that he has kept all the commandments and something about no one but God can keep the commandments; I think that draws the implication that Jesus is as miraculous as God. –  Anonymous Jul 27 '13 at 15:03
    
Well, I would imagine that Jesus had been living as a carpenter or whatever, working with his hands for a living. It might have been a way to feed himself. Then, he presumably became enlightened and started his ministry. –  Anonymous Jul 27 '13 at 15:10
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What makes you assume that a prescription he gave to one person applies to everyone equally? –  Affable Geek Jul 27 '13 at 16:14
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Since there is no patristic commentary related to Matt. 19:21, the clear meaning of that verse is, at best, speculative. The Matt. & Luke Gospels appear to imply the young man was to go back home, sell each & every one of his possessions, then give the money to charity. But wouldn't his doing that have just added one more person to the ranks of the poor in Jesus' time & place? Bearing in mind the location & events of this encounter, the key word in the Greek phrase πωλησον σου τα υπαρχοντα (cf. 01 03 N-A28) is, IMO, υπαρχοντα (sell whatever one has at hand, not back at home; cp. Mark 10:21). –  Pat Ferguson Jul 27 '13 at 18:05
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@PatFerguson "... wouldn't [selling all and giving the money to the poor] have just added one more person to the ranks of the poor?" Yes, it would have done exactly that; after all, Jesus says in Matthew 19:24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. –  user1477388 Jul 28 '13 at 10:48

2 Answers 2

Jesus continuously said things that got to the heart of the matter. This example is no different.

In your quote from Matthew we see a young man that wants to know what good thing he must do to get eternal life. Eventually, Jesus says what you have quoted.

What the man then does and what Jesus says immediately after revels what Jesus meant.

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

You see he loved his wealth more than life! He was willing to forego eternal life in the Kingdom of God for money here on Earth! Jesus got to the heart of the matter for that young man; the thing that was keeping him from truly following God. He goes on to say:

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This verse is highly debated, but most agree on at least this: Jesus is saying that for a man like this one, gaining eternal life will never happen as long as money is in his way; as long as love for money is in his heart.

But the most important part follows:

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

You cannot save yourself! Whatever you do, you cannot satisfy God's wrath. You will still deserve death. But by God's super-abundant grace, you can be saved.

So you see the issue was not money, specifically. The issue is anything that is in your way from truly loving God and following Him wholeheartedly. It is then that His grace will save you and you will gain eternal life.1

The short answer to your exact question in light of the above:

Though Jesus likely gave to the poor regularly, he almost certainly earned and used money in the same way we do. He needed to make a living just like everyone else. Also, he was not making a description of "perfect" as much as he was showing that a perfect man has nothing between himself and God.


Though I have not given a doctrinal perspective, I think I have represented the majority of Christianity in the interpretation of these verses.


1) ADDENDUM

There are other teachings from Jesus that say the same thing but use other things as the example that comes between you and God. Jesus did say you must "hate" your entire family and yourself before you can be His follower Luke 14:26. If we follow the plain logic that your question and comments adhere to then we are stuck asking what the disciples did: If all with a family are doomed "Who then can be saved?" And Jesus then would correct us and saying "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." So you see, again, the issue is anything that comes between you and God. Whatever that thing is is actually much less important.

The scripture is filled with encouragements to remove all things that cause you to stumble and not follow God. The language in them is rough and ridiculous if you think it is literal prescriptive advice. Here are a few:

  1. Mark 9:43 and Matthew 18:8 - "If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out." Surely, you are not to cut off parts of your body. It is equally ridiculous to blame your eyes for engaging in fornication. However, it is not ridiculous to blame your lusts on the filthy television you watched last night, for example.

  2. 1 Corinthians 8:9 Says to even remove things from your life that can cause others to sin - "Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak." There is no ridiculous language in these verses; it is straight forward and gives a real example: eating animals that have been sacrificed to idols (though I admit that is less of a problem today).

  3. Luke 14:26 -- “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." If we take "hate" literally then it is in contrast with the second greatest commandment. Clearly, the message is that there must be nothing between you and God; to be a disciple of Christ you must be all in or not in at all; you must remove or change anything from your life that prevents you from following Him wholeheartedly.

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Fredsbend, did you just ask yourself a question and then answer it? LOL +1 for good answer –  rguy Jul 27 '13 at 22:05
    
@rguy Thanks for the +1. No, I did not ask this question, though I did edit it. However, it is acceptable to "self-answer" on SE and is encouraged if you know a great deal about a particular subject. –  fredsbend the Grinch Jul 28 '13 at 4:20
    
When you say, "for a man like this one" you mean rich, right? Because Jesus says, "for someone who is rich," he does not say, "for THIS particular man, specifically." More to my question, "When Jesus worked as a carpenter, did he give his wages to the poor," seems to be "We assume so?" –  user1477388 Jul 28 '13 at 10:59
    
@user1477388 "for a man like this one" means he loves his riches more than God. The fact that he was rich is somewhat irrelevant; you could also be quite poor, but you still might love what you do have more than you love God. -- Yes, we assume Jesus gave to the poor regularly. He likely gave money, and we know he gave time, care, love, and food. Money is never mentioned, but there is no reason to think Jesus kept all his money when he clearly cared so dearly for the needy. –  fredsbend the Grinch Jul 28 '13 at 18:45
    
@user1477388 There are other teachings from Jesus that say the same thing but use other things as the example that comes between you and God. Jesus did say you must "hate" your entire family and yourself before you can be His follower Luke 14:26. If we follow the plain logic that you are adhering to then we are stuck asking what the disciples did: If all with a family are doomed "Who then can be saved?" And Jesus then corrects us and says "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." So you see, again, the issue is anything that comes between you and God. –  fredsbend the Grinch Jul 28 '13 at 18:50

He emptied Himself of all the glory of Heaven to become a man on Earth. Yes, I think that means He gave everything (more than we can imagine), not just for the poor, but for the whole of mankind.

Philippians 2:4-8 (KJV)
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

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This is a very good point, but I think it evades the question. –  fredsbend the Grinch Jul 28 '13 at 18:45

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