Mark 10:17-27 – And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 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!” 24 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! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Trail junction near the Bear Lake trailhead. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.
“Money is the root of all evil.” Have you ever heard someone say this? Many Bible verses are misused or misinterpreted. And, while I have no real data to support this, I suspect that the first sentence of 1 Timothy 6:10, which actually reads, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” is one of the most frequently misquoted verses. The oft intended message of those misquoting this verse is that money and the rich are inherently bad.
Today’s passage from Mark’s Gospel is another that is taken out of context and used to condemn the wealthy. When Jesus says, “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,” the inclination for many is to again conclude that money and the rich are inherently bad.
I think the key to understanding what Jesus says here is to look closely at the man’s question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The emphasis of the man’s question is on what he, himself, must do. So, Jesus tells him that he must perfectly obey the commandments, sell everything he owns, give it to the poor, and follow him. After all, God does demand perfection. The difficulty for the rich man entering heaven, though, lies not in his money or possessions, but rather in the fact that he trusts his own abilities and wealth to accomplish something that only Christ can do.
It is certainly fair that we as Christians should challenge each other to be accountable for where we invest our time, talent, and treasures, because being a follower of Christ does demand a change in the way we live our lives. But we really need to ask ourselves, what path to salvation are we following? Do we trust in ourselves, our own abilities, and our possessions? Or, do we trust in the infinite and eternal God of the universe? Do we trust in the God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)? Because, you see, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Read more about my “God is Revealed…“ category of posts
© Todd D. Nystrom and Todd the Hiker, 2014.