Luke 10 no extra clothes, no money - today?


petertripodi asked this question on 2/11/2001:

In Luke 10:1-12, Jesus lays down the requirements for being one of his disciples; take no extra clothes, no money, and no greetings to anyone. Are these requirements given because Jesus was soon about to die and he needed to spread the word quickly in this particular situation, OR, do they apply even to modern day Christians. It wouldn’t seem to be so since we are not under the pressure to deliver the message as expediently as were the 72 disciples (after all, Jesus' death was only days away...which is no longer the case). How should I view these strict requirements he stated?




The joy of the Lord be in your heart.

Forgive me for being tardy in answering.

I think the passage you mention is not apocalyptical like having to interpret it in connection with the death of Jesus or His coming back at the end of the world. Let me explain.

Luke writes for non-Jewish Christians. You can see that through his explaining and adapting typical Hebrew or Aramaic expressions. You know that the gospels were written some twenty years (?) after Jesus ascending to heaven. The evangelists retake catechetical units of the first Christian preachers (apostles) and put them into a literary order. Luke is a specialist in transmitting a message even by the way he arranges his material.

An other point we have to pay attention to is the process of establishing the catechetical units. Many times the apostles were confronted with new situation and they discerned what Jesus has said regarding this problem. Therefore, the gospels are an authoritative interpretation of Jesus' words and deeds. This procedure is used also after the apostles died.

Therefore, the Church is ever looking back at the fundamental Christian revelation but interpreting it regarding present circumstances and actual problems. At the same time, we have to take seriously the fact that much of the revelation has not been written by the evangelists but was transmitted orally and conserved by tradition. That's why the Church Fathers are so important.

The passage itself describes those specially sent in order to preach. There were many more that followed Christ and only 70(2) were sent. The number represents all the nations known at that moment. Moreover, the general conditions of being a disciple are described in the sermon of the mountain or in the passage "who wants to be a disciple it is necessary that he denies himself etc". In this passage, it's about a special charisma not about discipleship as such.

This very condensed introduction serves as basis for my answer. There is a widespread habit to take a phrase or paragraph and consider it by itself and draw conclusions. The rabbis have had an axiom followed by the early Christians: Scripture is interpreted by Scripture. So you have to look not only at the whole gospel, you have to look at the whole NT and at the OT in order to interpret a passage. Catholics have the privilege of a special help regarding interpretation: Tradition.

As an example in case, let us look at a central concept of the passage in question. There is something like a refrain: "The kingdom is near ". The first communities understood the coming of the kingdom not only as the final advent of Christ even if it is implied every time the kingdom was announced. Every Christian expects the coming of Christ today if he has real faith.

If you look at the word "kingdom" and the context you will find that Jesus is talking about the Church where the sowing of the word will continue, where the little grain will grow and become a tree where the birds of heaven will rest and so on. It seems that it is not so much the apocalyptical character that prevails but the description of how this kingdom grows, evolves and how the members of this kingdom act and react right or wrongly. Therefore, the urgency is not apocalyptical but a simple characteristic of Christian love for those who don't know the kingdom.

That's why I think that the expression "take no extra clothes, no money, and no greetings to anyone" is no apocalyptical statement but an utterance regarding the mission's urgency and conditions. The kingdom does not begin and continue to grow through human means. It's the power of being sent: "Whosoever pays attention to you is hearing really Me". The most "efficient" messenger is the one who deprives himself of all human security and puts his confidence in Who sent him. That's the typical gospel axiom. The weak are the strong, the stupid are the wise etc.

In the Church, charismas appear and disappear. So it was with those who took the Jesus' mission "without money, etc" literally. It is true, the early and later ascetics and monks conserved it but it wasn't linked to the mission as such. The Didache, a very early Church document speaks about these radical apostles and preachers. However, later documents don't mention them anymore. The Holy Spirit awakens the charisma when and how He deems it necessary.

Eusebius from Caesarea has a description of these first post-apostolic itinerant teachers who applied the passage literally. You will find it in his Ecclesiastical History (book III n. 37) "1 Among those that were celebrated at that time was Quadratus, who, report says, was renowned along with the daughters of Philip for his prophetical gifts. And there were many others besides these who were known in those days, and who occupied the first place among the successors of the apostles. And they also, being illustrious disciples of such great men, built up the foundations of the churches which had been laid by the apostles in every place, and preached the Gospel more and more widely and scattered the saving seeds of the kingdom of heaven far and near throughout the whole world.

2 For indeed most of the disciples of that time, animated by the divine word with a more ardent love for philosophy, had already fulfilled the command of the Savior, and had distributed their goods to the needy. Then starting out upon long journeys they performed the office of evangelists, being filled with the desire to preach Christ to those who had not yet heard the word of faith, and to deliver to them the divine Gospels.

3 And when they had only laid the foundations of the faith in foreign places, they appointed others as pastors, and entrusted them with the nurture of those that had recently been brought in, while they themselves went on again to other countries and nations, with the grace and the co-operation of God. For a great many wonderful works were done through them by the power of the divine Spirit, so that at the first hearing whole multitudes of men eagerly embraced the religion of the Creator of the universe.

4 But since it is impossible for us to enumerate the names of all that became shepherds or evangelists in the churches throughout the world in the age immediately succeeding the apostles, we have recorded, as was fitting, the names of those only who have transmitted the apostolic doctrine to us in writings still extant".


He talks about something past. As an interesting tidbit look at the interpretation of the parable of the seed. Those who produce the 30% are those who sell their possession and give them to the poor. The in between are those who act like those described by Eusebius, the missionaries. The Christians of the 100% are those who give their life as martyrs. This ancient interpretation is an example how at different moments the words of Jesus are applied to concrete situations.

Where is this charisma now? Taking these elements into account you can look at the actual Christians and discern what element they apply. Can you find Christians today that take these words literally? Yes, you can.

At this very moment, some 30 kilometers north of Lima there are assembled more than 80 Christians. Tomorrow they will receive the fare to the city of our country that has been assigned to them by lot. Arriving there, they will give to the poor all money they have. They will conserve only the return ticket. And then they will preach Jesus Christ and experience for two weeks that "the laborer is worthy of his salary".

At the end of the Jubilee of the Families the Holy Father sent some 100 couples as "families on mission". The leave everything and go with their children to the country assigned and establish themselves where the Church has no presence in order to be witness of faith. As you see the Holy Spirit continues His work in the Church. If you look you will find traces of His action everywhere in the Church.


Perhaps you expected something quite different. But looking at Tradition opens a much wider horizon of meanings than a merely literal or technical exegesis. The Holy Spirit guides the Church and her members responding to His call live their vocation according to the gospel as God sees it fit at this moment.

Finally, we should meditate regarding what charisma the Holy Spirit has given to each one of us!







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