by Watchman Nee

Scripture Reading: Luke 18:18-30; 19:1-10; Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-35; Matt. 6:19-24


The first thing we should realize concerning a new believer selling all to take the Lord's way is that the church must first take the lead to do this. Otherwise, we will only be speaking in vain. Whether or not a new believer gets through in this matter depends on the condition of the church. If the church is not a consecrated church, it would be useless to speak of consecration to others. If the church is not separated from the world, it would be useless to speak about baptism or separation from the world. If the brothers and sisters in a church do not have the practice of selling their all, it would be useless to speak to new ones about selling their all. God's children must stand on the ground of what they preach before they can lead new believers to the same ground. I am not saying that God will not do a special work to raise up new brothers and sisters to take this way. But it is not easy for new ones to take this way. Some must first set the example by taking this stand. Others can then deal with the issue easily. If everyone casts every consideration aside and gives his all, we can expect new ones to cast every consideration aside and give their all. If we do not do this, it will be hard for the new ones to do it. A locality must be assured that its believers are very much strengthened before it can expect this practice to be accepted smoothly. If the brothers and sisters are not that strong, this practice cannot be implemented.


Let us begin with the story of the young ruler in Luke 18. The young ruler was a very moral person. He was quite virtuous as far as his conduct before God was concerned. He had kept all the commandments, and he respected the Lord Jesus very much. This is why he addressed the Lord as "Good Teacher" (v. 18). The Lord Jesus was quite kind to him; He was even moved with love for him (Mark 10:21). He knew that it was not easy to gain such a person.

A. The Need for Absoluteness in Serving the Lord

Yet the Lord laid down a requirement. If a man wants to serve Him or follow Him, he has to be perfect. Notice the Lord's word: "If you want to be perfect," "one thing you lack" (Matt. 19:21; Mark 10:21). In other words, the Lord told him that in order to follow Him, a man has to follow Him absolutely all the way; he cannot lack one thing. He cannot take care of ninety-nine things but leave one thing untouched for himself. Those who do this cannot follow the Lord. The Lord demands that when we come to Him, everything belonging to us has to come to Him as well. The Lord requires that we be perfect; He wants us to follow Him absolutely. Anything short of this will not do. The young ruler had kept the commandments from his youth. He feared God. Yet the Lord said that even a person such as he lacked one thing, without which he could not go on. This one thing was to sell all his possessions, to give to the poor, and then to follow the Lord. This was the only way for him to go on.

B. In Order to Follow the Lord One Must Sell All

Hence, no one can follow the Lord who will not sell all his possessions. If one does not sell his all, he cannot follow the Lord; he cannot go on in this way. We must have a deep realization of this serious matter.

C. Keeping One's Possessions Meaning Keeping One's Sorrow

The Bible says that when the young ruler heard the Lord's word, he left in sorrow. A man can be so close to the Lord and so clear about Him and yet still refuse to let go of his possessions. He can still try to keep his possessions. But when he keeps his possessions, he also keeps his sorrow. Money pierces a person through with many pains (1 Tim. 6:10). A man cannot accumulate riches and joy at the same time. If he accumulates riches, he accumulates headaches for himself as well. If he saves his possessions, he saves sorrow and troubles for himself as well. Here was a man who kept his possessions, but he could no longer follow the Lord. If you want your money, you should not follow the Lord. If you do not follow the Lord, your money can remain intact, and your sorrow will also remain intact. Money and sorrow always go together. You cannot retain your money without retaining your sorrow.

Only those who have handed over their all can live a joyous life. Those who are unwilling to give up their possessions always live a sad life. I have noticed this too clearly in many places. I can predict that the brothers who cling to their money will always abide in sorrow. It is not a happy thing to cling to material possessions. This is very clear. We should tell new believers that if they want joy, they should give up everything to follow the Lord.

D. Salvation, Receiving Eternal Life, and Entering God's Kingdom

The young ruler would not let go of his possessions, and he left in sorrow. When the Lord saw this, He remarked, "How difficult it will be for those who have riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:23). The first point in this story concerns inheriting eternal life. Following this there is the matter of entering the kingdom of God. Those who heard the Lord's words concerning entering the kingdom asked, "Then who can be saved?" (v. 26). Here the matters of salvation, receiving eternal life, and entering the kingdom of God are all linked together. If we want to inherit eternal life, we have to part with our possessions. Otherwise, our possessions will hinder us from inheriting eternal life. If we want to enter God's kingdom, we must remember that it is impossible for a rich man to enter in. If we want to be saved, the Lord will save us. Yet we must remember that if the Lord does save us, we have to give up our riches. This does not mean that one is saved by giving up his riches. It means that if a man is saved, he will spontaneously give up his riches. It is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. In the same way it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Yet all the brothers and sisters among us are camels. Those who are rich are big camels, and those who are less rich are smaller camels; everyone is a camel. Just as a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle, a rich man cannot enter the kingdom of God. If the Lord says that no rich man can enter God's kingdom, it must mean that no rich man can enter it.

E. Selling All to Inherit Eternal Life

When the disciples heard this they were worried. They asked, "Then who can be saved?" They misunderstood the Lord. What did the Lord say to the young man? When the young man asked, "What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" the Lord's answer was to sell all he had and give to the poor. Hence, one must sell all that he has before he can receive eternal life. A little while later the Lord said that a rich man entering God's kingdom is like a camel going through the eye of a needle. This means that a rich man cannot enter God's kingdom. If you put the two things together, you can see that a rich man cannot enter God's kingdom, and that one must sell his all before he can inherit eternal life. Peter behaved liked a Bible teacher. When he heard this, he felt this was a terrible requirement. He thought, "If the inheriting of eternal life is related to one's work, and if one cannot enter God's kingdom if he is rich, but instead must sell his all before going in, this must mean that the entrance no longer depends on faith. If this is the case, who can be saved? Who can sell all that he has before inheriting eternal life? Who can first be poor in order to be saved?"

F. The Central Issue of Selling One's All

The Lord Jesus gave the answer to this question. This word is the central subject of this story. We must lay hold of this word. He said, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God" (Luke 18:27). A new believer must realize that it is impossible to first give up everything and then enter God's kingdom. The Lord acknowledged that this is impossible.


The mistake of the young man was not his reluctance to sell his all but his turning away in sorrow. God knows, and the Lord also knows, that this is something that is impossible with men. There was nothing strange in his not being able to make it. The Lord knows that we cannot sell all that we have to give to the poor. Yet this man turned away in sorrow because he thought that since the matter was impossible for him, it must be impossible for God as well. He knew that it was terrible that he could not give up his riches. But why would the Lord, knowing that he could not, still ask him to give them up? The Lord Jesus' answer was, "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God." How can a camel go through the eye of a needle? This is impossible. In the same principle, everyone in this world loves money; it is impossible for anyone to sell all his possessions. But it would be a big mistake if anyone were to turn away in sorrow just because he could not make it! If we turn away in sorrow, we limit the power of God.

A. Man's Problem Being His Refusal to Accept the Power of God

The young man could not make it. Yet he did not consider the possibility of God making it. In other words, the Lord was prepared to give grace to this young man, yet he did not take it. All he needed to do was to stop and say, "Lord! I cannot give up my money. Please give me the grace. What is impossible for me is possible for You. I cannot make it, but You can. I cannot do it, but You can work in me to the point that I can. Lord! I cannot give up my money. I cannot sell all that I have to follow You. But You can. I ask for Your grace!" It was his mistake that he did not pray. It was his mistake that he did not believe and did not ask. It was his mistake to turn away in sorrow. Man's mistake does not lie in his weakness but in his refusal to accept God's power. It does not lie in his inability but in his refusal to allow God to be the able One for him. It does not lie in the fact that his work has come short but in the fact that he has not allowed God to save him to the point that his work will come up to the standard. This is the main point in the Lord's word. The central subject of this passage is the sentence "The things that are impossible with men are possible with God." The Lord Jesus was willing to show the young ruler that even though man could not make it, God could make it. Yet the young ruler only saw his inability; he turned away in sorrow.

B. There Being a Way for Both the Willing and the Unwilling

A new believer should thank the Lord like Peter did if God causes him to give up everything joyfully. But if he, like the young ruler, finds it hard to obey, there is still a way for him. There is a way for those who respond as quickly as the twelve disciples. There is also a way for those who are as reluctant as the young ruler. All one has to do is to bow his head and say, "Lord, I cannot make it. I need grace!" This is the way. The young ruler did not do this. He left the Lord in sorrow. This was his mistake.

C. Being Absolute to Take the Christian Way

When the Lord saw the young man leave, He remarked how hard it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Peter then said to the Lord, "Behold, we have left our own things and have followed You" (Luke 18:28). The Lord answered Peter saying, "Truly I say to you that there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not by all means receive back many times as much in this time, and in the coming age, eternal life" (vv. 29-30). The Lord showed the disciples that following Him means giving up everything for His sake and for the gospel's sake. In order to be a Christian at all, one has to set aside everything to follow the Lord.

D. Setting Aside Everything to Serve the Lord

A young person must see that in order to serve God, he has to set aside, sell, or give up everything before he can follow the Lord. When the Lord called the twelve apostles, they happily and instantly followed Him. They did not linger for a moment. They gave up their boats, their nets, and everything to follow the Lord. We find such men in the early days, and we find such men in China today. Like Peter, James, and John, these ones hear the Lord's calling, and they follow the Lord instantly and absolutely. We have to thank the Lord for this. Yet if there are men who, like the young ruler, find it difficult to respond to the Lord or to give up everything to follow Him, thank the Lord, there is still a way. The way lies in this: What is impossible to men is possible to God.

E. Only One Person Being Afraid to Follow

Here we find a right combination: Thirteen people were called by the Lord. Eleven gave up everything instantly and absolutely, one was false, and the other one was unwilling. Of the thirteen, eleven were good, one was false-Judas, and the remaining one, the thirteenth one, was the young ruler. We should not think that when the Lord's word goes out that only one person will genuinely follow the Lord. On the contrary, the Bible shows us that only one was afraid to follow Him.

F. Taking a Firm Stand before the Lord

Please remember that as long as we take a firm stand and the church also takes a firm stand before God, we do not have to worry whether there are too many young rulers. We should realize that men like the young ruler are rare cases. Not everyone in the church is a Judas. In the same way, not everyone in the church is a young ruler. Of the thirteen, eleven were absolute. When God's word is released, and the place is right and the audience proper, it is rare to find one who will not follow the Lord in an absolute way.


Let us now turn to the story of Zaccheus. Zaccheus was a Jew, yet he worked for the Roman government. Humanly speaking, he was a traitor because he collaborated with the Roman Empire to extort from his own countrymen. He was a tax collector appointed by the Roman government; he was a Jew in his own Jewish land, yet he was collecting taxes from his own countrymen for the Romans, the very ones who had overrun his native land.

A. Zaccheus Being a Tax Collector and a Sinner

Zaccheus was not a very moral person. He was not as noble as the young ruler, who had kept the commandments from his youth. He was a tax collector who worked for foreigners. The tax collectors of that day, like all tax collectors, were greedy men. They always tried to get more money from the people. At that time two groups of people were very much despised by the Jews. One was sinners, and the other was tax collectors. These names carried the same stigma as that of a hooligan today; they suggested men of bad reputation. But on that day the Lord Jesus came and passed through. Here was a man with great power. He was drawing many people to Himself. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him" (John 6:44). It was the Father who drew Zaccheus to the Lord.

B. The Lord Met Zaccheus, but Did Not Preach to Him

Zaccheus was drawn to the Lord. He wanted to see Jesus. Because he was too short, he had to climb up a sycamore tree. Yet before he saw the Lord, the Lord saw him first. When the Lord saw him, He did not preach to him a sermon. He did not say, "You should confess your sins and repent." He did not tell him, "You should not have extorted from others," or "You should not have sinned or become greedy." Neither did the Lord tell him to sell all that he had, give to the poor, and follow Him. The Lord did not pass on any teaching to him. He only said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay in your house" (Luke 19:5). Please pay attention to the fact that the Lord did not exhort him in any way. He did not give him any teaching on work as He did in chapters five through seven of Matthew. He did not speak about the doctrine of regeneration of John 3, the teaching on the living water of John 4, the teaching on light of John 8, or the teaching on the one grain that fell into the ground of John 12. The Lord did not preach to Zaccheus at all. He did not exhort him in any way. It was just a personal touch, a personal encounter. Here was a heart that was after the Lord. Here was a person who had chosen Him. In fact, as far as doctrine was concerned, Zaccheus did not know anything.

C. Others Feeling Indignant

The Lord did not preach to him at all. He simply said, "Hurry and come down, for today I must stay in your house." When Zaccheus heard this, he received the Lord with joy. When some of the people around saw this, they were indignant. "How could Jesus of Nazareth go to this man's house? He could have gone to any house but this one. Even if He were ignorant about this man, His disciples should have investigated and found out that Zaccheus is not an upright man and does not have a good reputation. Why would they not tell their teacher this?" Everyone knew what kind of person Zaccheus was. Everyone knew his background. When they heard the Lord's word, they all murmured in their heart.

D. Wherever the Lord Goes, Money Is Released

Our point here is that the Lord did not preach to Zaccheus at all. He only said one word, "Today I must stay in your house." One word was good enough. Even though He was not yet in Zaccheus's house, His word was powerful enough. Wherever the Lord goes, money is released. Wherever He goes, wealth is released. Wherever He goes, the love of money goes away. It seems as if the Lord was saying, "As long as I can visit this house, everything will be fine. For Me just saying that I must stay in this house is as powerful as Me actually being in the house." The words took effect. The few words "I must stay" took effect, and something happened.

E. One Word Stripped Zaccheus's House

How can we prove that something happened? When Zaccheus heard these words, immediately he stood and said, "Behold, the half of my possessions, Lord, I give to the poor, and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore four times as much" (Luke 19:8). This word means that his whole house was stripped. One word from the Lord Jesus stripped Zaccheus's house of everything.


The Lord exhorted the young ruler, yet the young ruler did not make it. The Lord did not exhort Zaccheus, yet he made it. Both were rich men. The rich man in Luke 18 was young, while the one in chapter nineteen was old. According to common sense, an old man should be stingy with money while a young man should be generous with it. But what we have here is something very different. One case points to the impossibility with men, while the other case points to the possibility with God. We should not skip over this matter lightly. It is not easy to sell everything and to follow the Lord. Who can give up all of his possessions? A man has to be crazy to give up everything. But Zaccheus's story tells us that what is impossible with men is possible with God. Zaccheus did this without any teaching. The Lord did not tell him what to do, yet he did it. What we have here is a principle. It shows us how easy this thing can be done.


As soon as God does something, the camel will go through the eye of the needle. You should tell new believers that in Luke 18 there was a camel who hesitated before the eye of a needle and who turned around after looking at it for a while. Yet in Luke 19 there was another camel who went through the eye of the needle. Please remember that what is impossible with men is possible with God. Chapter eighteen tells us that with men it is impossible, while chapter nineteen tells us that with God it is possible. If you turn to the Lord, things will happen in an instant. Your problems will be solved in an instant. Humanly speaking, selling all that one has is madness, but this matter was settled in an instant.

A. Salvation Coming to This House

How can this be settled in an instant? One must not presume that God is able for no reason at all. The Lord shows us two reasons. First, Zaccheus was a son of Abraham; second, salvation came to his house. Zaccheus did not do this by himself. It was not because of Zaccheus himself that he heard the Lord's commandment. He did not weep and pray repeatedly. He did not bargain with himself in numerous attempts to get through and then grit his teeth and do it. He did not give in a little one day, a little the next day, a little more the third day, until he no longer held anything back. The Lord said that it was not Zaccheus's decision, struggle, consideration, or endeavor that made him willing to sell all. Why was his house, which had been built up through years of savings, gambles, and sacrifice of honor, stripped bare in an instant? It was "bankrupted" in an instant because salvation came to his house. Zaccheus did not save himself; the Lord saved him.

Salvation has come to this house! The Lord's power has come to this house! When this happens, everything moves speedily and promptly. Please notice the two occurrences of the word house. In verse 5 the Lord said, "I must stay in your house," and in verse 9 He said, "Today salvation has come to this house." This clearly shows that the Lord is the very salvation that came to Zaccheus's house. When the Lord comes to our house, salvation comes to our house. The Lord's coming is salvation's coming. Once He comes, everything becomes possible. The young ruler, in effect, said that God could not do it. Zaccheus, in effect, said that God could do it. No man can be freed from the bondage of money. Man will always turn away in sorrow. But when God shows mercy to a person and saves him, nothing becomes impossible.

B. The Lord Seeking Those Who Are Lost in Riches

In the end the Lord concluded, "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:10). This is a very familiar verse in Christianity. One chief reason that the Son of Man came is to seek those who are lost in riches. All those who love money are lost and estranged. Today the Lord is seeking. Zaccheus was found by the Lord. Today the Lord has also found us. Originally we were all lost. We were lost in money. But the Lord has found us, and all of our problems can go away. Once money leaves, all our problems go away.


Consider these two chapters, Luke 18 and 19. The Lord told the young ruler to sell all he had, and he went away in sorrow. But the Lord did not say anything to Zaccheus, yet something happened. When the Lord was on earth, He initiated this practice. After the church came into existence at Pentecost, this matter was practiced again. When a church is proper, all of these things will happen without much struggle.

A. Selling Everything Being the Lord's Command

The main thing we should note in Acts 2 and 4 is that the believers had all things in common at the beginning of the church life. No one said that he kept something as his own. In other words, the Lord's hand was on every saved person. Once a man received eternal life, something happened. Among the ones who had this life, their sphere of possessions began to be diffused; their possessions began to move away from their private hands. The next thing we find is that men spontaneously sold their properties and houses. In chapter four the believers sold all their properties and houses. This is the way the Lord wants us to take. His commandment is that we should sell our all.

B. All Ordinary Possessions Being Held in Common

Before a man follows the Lord, he carries many things with him, such as his assets and daily necessities. Once he comes to the Lord and the Lord touches him, his possessions become common goods. From that point on, no one can say that a certain object belongs to him. No one can say that he is taking advantage of anyone else, and no one can say that anything is his own. The same object will be shared by all. The same money can be in your pocket, or it can be in my pocket. The same clothes can be worn by you, or they can be worn by me. Whatever our practice is, this should be the kind of flavor we carry. Such a practice has to do with one's ordinary possessions.

C. Properties, Houses, and Valuables to Be Sold

As for properties, houses, and valuables, they have to be sold. Anything special should be sold. Properties, houses, as well as other forms of tangible assets such as jade, antiques, and calligraphy collections must be sold. After they are sold, the proceeds should be given to the poor.

D. Nothing to Be Held in Private

In regard to the rest of your belongings, whatever you need to keep to take care of your daily necessities does not have to be sold. Yet you must have the attitude that all of God's children can share all of these things with you. Let me tell you something about myself. You can take this as a joke. For about twenty years, I have had the habit of buying everything in quantity, half a dozen or a dozen at a time. Some brothers wonder why I always buy in quantity. For example, when I buy a pair of sunglasses, my intention is, of course, to use them. Yet I also pray, "God, since You intend to supply me with sunglasses, please supply me with six pairs." I do not have peace unless I pray this way. Then when a brother in need comes along, I give him a pair. If another brother comes along, I give him another pair. I give away five pairs and keep one for myself. In this way I keep my peace.

If I buy pocketknives, I always buy a dozen. If I buy razors, I always buy a case of twelve dozen. I do this because if I only buy one, it will have the flavor of doing something for myself. But if I give one to you when you come, and I give another to another brother when he comes, there is a much sweeter flavor to the whole purchase. Of course, I cannot give to a thousand or a million people. But by giving away a little, the flavor becomes different. If I buy a dozen pocketknives, and eleven brothers come to me, I can give each of them one. I can keep the last one, and God will probably give me the liberty to use it freely. If I do not do this, there will always be a nagging feeling that I am keeping something for myself. Those who have stayed with me for any length of time know what I am saying. Whenever I go shopping, I always buy in dozens. But I do not use in dozens. Once I let go of my possessions, there is a sweet flavor to whatever I do.

E. Practicing the Principle of Having All Things in Common

We should learn not to hold on tightly to our own possessions. I believe the Lord will not allow me to keep my coat forever. Perhaps tomorrow it will be gone. Since that is the case, I might as well ask the tailor to make a few more for me; then I can give some away. We should try our best to build up this feeling among us. Every time we shop, we should not plan for ourselves only. We should always think of others. We need to shop. I am not saying that we should not shop. But when we shop, we should cultivate this feeling, the flavor of having all things in common. I am not saying that we have to practice the very act of having all things in common. I am saying that we have to keep this principle. Always think of others. We must always uphold the principle of having all things in common.

F. Learning Not to Take Root or to Be Stingy before God

All new believers should learn this lesson before God. If we have special possessions or objects, we should sell them. All real estate, gold, or silver should be sold. We do not like to see believers owning gold, silver, properties, or houses. Such things always tempt us to take root in the earth.

Yet it is not enough to simply get rid of these things. Many people have sold their properties, but it is hard to borrow a fountain pen from them. It is not easy to be delivered from the world! There are many stingy men in this world. They are stingy, not only in the big things, but in the small things as well. They are stingy in every little item and every little detail.

G. Not Holding On to Anything, Always Letting Go

Many times when I read Acts 2 and 4, I get the impression that our so-called real assets such as properties and houses must somehow be sold. The church did this then. Acts does not speak of many other things. Yet it does say that they had all things in common. No one held on to anything for himself. God's children should always let go of what they have when it comes to supplying other children of God. If we have any possession, we should either sell it or give it away to the poor. Our feeling should always be to share our possession with others, whether it is a knife or a pen. We should not keep anything for ourselves. Everything can go. If we do this, God will not allow us to go into poverty. In fact, He will multiply what we have.

H. The Pattern of the Early Church

New believers should realize this principle. The early church practiced this. From the beginning, the twelve disciples told the Lord that they had abandoned all to follow Him. By the time of Pentecost, in the first revival, three thousand and five thousand spontaneously sold what they had. They were saved, and like Zaccheus, they did it without many teachings.

I. Selling All without Hearing Much Teaching about It

The twelve disciples did not hear many teachings before they forsook everything to follow the Lord. The Lord did not tell them to sell all that they had to follow Him. He only told them to follow Him (Matt. 4:19, 21). When the Lord called them, they spontaneously dropped everything. In the same way, the apostles did not tell the first group of three thousand people to sell all that they had. They sold all their possessions in a spontaneous way. Neither did the apostles tell the five thousand to sell all that they had; they did it spontaneously. Today we have to do the same. We have heard and believed in the gospel. We should do what the three thousand and five thousand did; they were also new believers. This is how the church goes on generation after generation. What a pity it would be for this "family tradition" to stop with us. We should always bring the church back to its original course.


Let us turn to Matthew 6, which shows us that our heart must be single in order to serve the Lord. We cannot serve God and mammon at the same time.

A. Mammon Being an Idol

Mammon is an idol. We have served it for many years. It has imprisoned our heart for many years. Today if we are to serve the Lord, we have to make a choice between the two. We cannot serve God and mammon together. The Lord said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (v. 21). A brother said to me once, "My treasures are on earth, but my heart is in heaven." I responded, "You are surely a museum piece, not of the London Museum, but of the `Christian Museum.' The Lord said that no one can do this, yet you have come up with something that is more miraculous than a miracle." The Lord said that where our treasure is, there will be our heart. The heart always follows the treasure. We cannot change this. No matter what we say, our heart will always be where our treasure is.

B. Learning to Serve God Alone

If we lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, we will always be serving mammon and not God. It is true that we can keep some occupation and engage in some work of production. But everything that we have should be offered up to God. We have to live by the lowest possible standard of living. We cannot serve God and mammon together. Do we choose God or mammon? We have to choose between the two. The Lord said that it is not wise to choose mammon, because mammon rusts, and moths consume it (v. 19). The account in our bank may be getting bigger and bigger, but thieves will come and steal it away. We have to learn to serve God alone and to lay up our treasure in heaven.

Back ]

Placed online by the Neve family.  We'd like to hear your comments. click here