Good News for the Rich

As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”

Mark 10:17-31

Though this story is almost word for word the same as Matthew, I noticed something this time that I didn’t really notice before. Jesus acknowledges how difficult it is for a rich man to enter God’s Kingdom. In fact, it is nearly impossible, He says. BUT, through God anything is possible.

If we were trying to enter God’s Kingdom on our own merits, the more money we have the more difficult it would be. (Not that we would be able to at all, but that’s a different post.) Because, as we’ve all experienced, the more we have, the more we want. And we can’t possibly be loving our neighbors properly if we are buying ourselves more. But through the Grace of God, any sinner can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus’s righteousness will be applied to us so that we, too, can enter the Kingdom of God. We don’t have to be perfect! Which is good, because it’s impossible.

But Jesus goes on to say that those who do make sacrifices in His name will be rewarded in the next life. So, we’re all saved, but some of us are more saved than others? I’ve heard a lot of interpretations of this seeming contradiction, and none of them have seemed quite right to me. But as best as I can tell, nowhere in the Gospels so far has Jesus expressed that we will all be equally blessed in Heaven. Maybe it’s not completely wrong to suppose that those who do good in this life will have greater rewards in Heaven than those who don’t. That’s at least what this passage seems to imply. It’s definitely worth looking further into, I think.

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