Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel Reading, which once again comes from Mark chapter 10, this time from verses 23-31.
1. As I mentioned last week, this text is the continuation of the story we heard in our Gospel Reading last week where the nameless rich man comes to Jesus asking about what he needs to do to inherit eternal life. At the end of last week’s text, we see the man leaving in sorrow because Jesus knew this man’s greatest idol—his god, if you will—was his possessions. Jesus had challenged the man to sell his possessions and give to the poor, then come, follow Jesus. And the man went away in sorrow because he had many possessions. And so, last week I challenged you to think about what your gods are that Jesus is challenging you to lay down. I have a suspicion that when I made that move—moving from talking about the nameless man’s possessions to “gods” in general—I have a suspicion that when I made that move, some people in this room felt a sense of relief thinking, “Oh good, I don’t have to feel bad about all of the possessions I have.” I let you off the hook last week in regard to possessions. But today’s text won’t let you off the hook. Today’s text forces us to confront our possessions specifically, which I suspect have become gods for all of us to one degree or another.
2. And so, with this in mind, we turn to our text for today. Let me read it one more time—Mark 10, beginning in verse 23: And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:23-31). Do you see what I mean about this text not letting you off the hook regarding possessions? In last week’s text, Jesus was talking to a specific man and giving him specific instruction. That specific instruction can’t be said to apply automatically to everyone by default. But in these verses, Jesus is quite clearly making a general statement which does apply to everyone: “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Ouch! You can understand why Mark tells us that the disciples were “amazed” at his words. It’s a harsh statement. It’s especially harsh when you think about some statistics: Did you know that around 4% of the world’s population lives in the United States, yet almost 30% of the world’s wealth is in this country? Did you know that if you make $63,000 per year, you are wealthier than 99.8% of the world’s population? Here’s one final statistic: Half of the world’s population lives on less than $2,000 per year. I think you get the point: It doesn’t matter who you are in this room, you are very wealthy in the grand scheme of things. And Jesus says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Again, ouch! So, what does Jesus mean by this? He gives us a hint in his next statement: “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Did you catch the hint? Jesus means that if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven, you better practice your sewing skills! Okay, not really. But we usually focus on this part about the camel and the needle when talking about this text, but that’s actually not the main point. That’s just an illustration, and an illustration is rarely the main point. So, what is Jesus’ main point? Well, if you were reading through the entirety of Mark 10 in one sitting, Jesus’ hint would be much more obvious. Do you remember last week how I said there is a “buffer text” between Jesus’ teaching about divorce in the first twelve verses of the chapter and this discussion about wealth and possessions we’ve had last week and this week? That “buffer text” is about Jesus and the children. Jesus welcomes the children to come to him and even says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark 10:15). Are you starting to see the connection? Look again at our text in verse 24. What is the first word Jesus says to his disciples in the quote in the middle of verse 24? “Children…” Do you get it now? It’s difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God because wealth gets in the way of inheriting the kingdom like a child.
3. My friends, this is our problem. Our wealth gets in the way of inheriting the kingdom like a child. Children are humble (at least the children Jesus is talking about). Children recognize that everything they have is a gift. Wealth doesn’t prevent us from inheriting the kingdom, but it does make it difficult. It has a tendency to make us proud and arrogant. So, the disciples ask Jesus, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answered, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Did you catch that? All things are possible with God—even the salvation of a poor, miserable sinner like you and me. Salvation is possible with God, even for wealthy people like you and me who have significantly more than we need. Salvation is possible with God, even for people like you and me who are wasteful and selfish with our possessions. Salvation is possible with God, even for poor, miserable sinners like you and me because God entered into human history for us men and for our salvation. He came down from heaven in the person of Jesus. To use the words of St. Paul from 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” My friends, Jesus gave up all of his riches and power in heaven so that he might become one of us. He came to this earth and wandered around as a poor, homeless man teaching about a new kind of wealth—eternal wealth in the kingdom of God. And then Jesus allowed everything he had left to be taken from him—his friends abandoned him and his few possessions and his clothing were taken by soldiers. Then Jesus gave up the only thing he had left—his very life—so that by his surrendering everything, your sins might be forgiven and that you might be given an eternal wealth in the kingdom of God.
4. With this wonderful, life-changing news in mind, we’re still left with a question. Now that I have been freely given this eternal wealth in the kingdom of God, what becomes of my earthly wealth? What should I do with it? To answer that question, we need to go back to the problem wealth creates. Wealth creates a problem when it causes us to arrogantly cling to our “stuff” rather than humbly receiving God’s gifts. Basically, wealth creates a problem when we become possessive over it. How do we avoid this? We avoid this by viewing our wealth and possessions as what they are—gifts from God. They are gifts, not something that we deserve. So, a Christian uses his wealth and possessions as if they did not belong to him—a Christian is simply a steward of what God gives to him. So, what do I do with the wealth and possessions God has given me? Well, it’s quite possible that God has called, is calling, or will call you to give them up for the sake of the kingdom. That is what he calls some people to do. That’s what he called his disciples to do. And if that’s the case for you, Jesus promises, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30). The worker deserves his wage, and so there will be blessing along with the struggles in this life for those who give up their possessions and livelihood for the sake of the Gospel. But that’s not the only way to use your wealth and possessions for the sake of the kingdom. The Scriptures give a number of examples of people who kept wealth and generously used it for the benefit of God’s kingdom. Mary the mother of Mark allowed her home to be the meeting place of the early Jerusalem church, Lydia served as the patron of the church in Philippi, and so many other nameless men and women funded and supported the missionary efforts of the church through the years. In many ways, keeping wealth and possessions and generously using it for the benefit of the kingdom is harder and requires greater faith. Whatever it looks like in your life specifically, the Lord’s call is to use our wealth and possessions for the sake of his kingdom. May the Lord grant us grace to do this so that more people might come to know the joys of the eternal wealth we have in Jesus.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.