“Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Several years ago my mother began a practice of always giving money to the homeless and poor people she encounters on the street. She told me she used to worry that they might use it to buy drugs or alcohol, and that she would feel responsible for their bad choices. But at some point she felt convicted that she didn’t need to track how they were spending the money she gave. Her giving money to the poor was a simple act of mercy, and it reflected God’s heart. So she carries cash around now and gives it to the poor and homeless whenever she happens to meet them.
According to Jesus, giving to the poor is storing up treasure in heaven, no matter what they do with what you give. In God’s economy, a gift to the poor is a beautiful, secure investment, not for yourself individually, but for all God’s people collectively and eschatologically.
Kingdom goods are are held communally because all of us trust the King to distribute justly and abundantly. We have no need of private ownership and control of our resources, since we have relinquished control to the King who does what is right.
This is why wealth is so dangerous to faith. Possessing great wealth, stored away in barns bank accounts, inexorably draws your heart toward it. And being drawn toward protecting and growing your privately-owned wealth is always being drawn away from the poor, and away from God.
This is freedom, then. Freedom to give everything away, if need be, since we are so confident in God’s care and provision for us. Free to provide abundantly for our brothers and sisters, for the poor, since we all share in God’s abundance together. If you need something, and I possess it, to hold it back from you for any reason would frankly be unthinkable, since we are organically connected as one Body.
Late capitalism would try and convince us that we are individuals who only interact with other individuals when we choose to do so. But Jesus reminds us that we are all more connected than we realize, on every level. So giving to the poor is storing up treasure in heaven, for all of us. Standing in solidarity with the poor, treating them as our own body, is to be with Jesus. I want more of that in my life and in my church.