Regular times with God help us to focus on eternity. Remember today that this life is not all there is. Indeed, the best is still to come.
The rich and the kingdom of God
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
18 ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.”
20 ‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.’
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’
27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’
28 Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’
29 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’
The man who approaches Jesus here would be considered an ideal candidate for membership of most local churches – he is enthusiastic (v 17), highly moral (vs 18–20) and very wealthy (v 22). Yet Jesus sees that money is his god, and when challenged to give up his wealth he sadly turns away.
Wealth is not wrong in itself, but it can easily become our master, the reason it is hard for rich people to follow Jesus wholeheartedly (v 23). This causes the disciples to wonder, because it seems to set the bar of discipleship very high, indeed too high. ‘Who then can be saved?’ they ask (vs 24–26).
A person can only respond to the claims of Christ if God makes them willing to do so. This seems to be the meaning behind verse 27. Even discipleship is an impossibility without the grace of God.
For those who have left everything to follow Jesus there is the confident assurance of blessing now, and in the age to come (vs 28–30). In the kingdom of God, status is reversed, and different values operate. Those who are considered ‘something’ in the world are relegated; those who are ‘nothing’ are exalted (v 31).
Think about your value system. How much store do you place by wealth and material possessions? How free are you to give generously and to share ungrudgingly what you have?
Deeper Bible study
‘They shared everything they had … God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there was no needy person among them.’1
Here we read of another incident that happens ‘on his way’ (v 17), so we can expect a lesson on discipleship. A wealthy man approaches Jesus and wants to know what he must do to obtain eternal life. It is clear from the subsequent conversation that the man is sincere and devout. He has kept the fifth to ninth commandments of the Decalogue (vs 19,20), but Jesus’ challenge in verse 21 relates to the tenth commandment, in that it tests the extent to which the rich man ‘covets’ his own possessions.2 Sadly, he cannot do the one thing Jesus asks from him – to part with his wealth.
In verses 23–27, Jesus elaborates on the difficulty posed by wealth. In fact, Jesus’ pithy maxim in verse 25 suggests that it is impossible for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom. The disciples are clearly astonished at the implications and question who, then, can possibly be saved. Jesus replies that it requires a miracle (v 27). While Mark does not elaborate, Luke follows Mark’s account with the story of a wealthy tax collector, demonstrating that such miracles are possible. Zacchaeus is able to enter God’s kingdom – but only after he has shed his wealth!3
Jesus’ radical teaching rattles Peter, who wants to check whether he and the other disciples have done enough and are on the right track of discipleship (v 28). After all, he has left his fishing business and family to follow Jesus. Jesus assures them that they will be rewarded with much for renouncing all and following him – including persecutions! A clear reminder that we follow Jesus on the road of the cross, which is laid with an inseparable mixture of blessing, joy and suffering.
Is there something that stops you from following Jesus wholeheartedly? Consider the importance of possessions in your life. Are you using them for the good of others?
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Isaiah 33,34; Hebrews 2
Pray for Scripture Union
Mission Enabler Sarah Davison gives thanks for the depth of relationship that has been fostered throughout lockdown with Local Mission Partners and existing contacts, enabling them to pray for one another, share resources and encourage one another.