“The Wealth You Leave and the Wealth You Receive” (Mark 10:23-31)

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
October 17, 2021

“The Wealth You Leave and the Wealth You Receive” (Mark 10:23-31)

Today Jesus speaks to us about wealth. He speaks of the wealth you need to leave in order to enter the kingdom of God. And he speaks of the wealth you receive when you do enter. And so our theme this morning: “The Wealth You Leave and the Wealth You Receive.”

Wealth is a subject that interests everyone. Wealth is something the rich have but want more of. Wealth is something the poor don’t have but want. And those of us in the middle? We may say we don’t need it but we wouldn’t mind having a little more of it. Like Tevye of “Fiddler on the Roof,” we daydream about having wealth: “If I were a rich man. . . .”

Wealth is very enticing. It always leads us on to get more. We’re never satisfied. More money, more “stuff.” More, more, more–and more is never enough. That’s the temptation inherent with wealth.

And Jesus recognizes this temptation. It makes money such an intoxicating idol. Last week we heard the story of the rich young ruler. He ran up to Jesus with such eagerness, but he went away with such sadness. He would not give up his attachment to wealth. Our text today picks up where that story left off. Jesus uses this incident with the rich man to teach his disciples about the difficulty that wealth poses for entering the kingdom of God. You know, we tend to think of wealth as being able to solve problems. But Jesus says that wealth causes problems. It’s a big problem in the most important question of life. He says, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

Why will it be difficult? It’s not because rich people are necessarily evil. No, they may be decent people who have worked hard for their money. Rather, the reason it can be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom is because riches can so easily lead a person away from trusting in God. Instead, they trust in their wealth. Their wealth becomes their god. That’s what they look to for their greatest good. Money can so easily take our eyes off God. You’ve got your McMansion in the suburbs, you’ve got your condo down in Florida, and a Range Rover in the garage. Life is good. Why do I need God? Wealth becomes our idol, and that’s why it can be so difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus re-emphasizes this point: “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.” Picture in your mind a big old camel, the largest land animal Jesus’ hearers would have seen–imagine a camel trying to go through the eye of a needle! Jesus is using a ridiculous comparison to make a serious point: A rich man who trusts in his wealth will not be able to come into God’s kingdom.

With that, the disciples are “exceedingly astonished,” it says. They were trained to think that the rich must be especially blessed by God. So if they, the rich, cannot make it in, who can? “Then who can be saved?”

And that’s a good question. Because it’s not just the rich who are guilty of idolatry, we all are, in one form or another. Even those of us who are not rich can be chasing after wealth, pursuing it, making it our chief desire. What is it that you run after, displacing God? When wealth or any other thing you set your heart on becomes your god, then you need to leave that idol behind. This is the wealth you must leave to enter the kingdom of God.

But how do we get in? Just because you left your wealth doesn’t qualify you to enter. Who can be saved, who can enter? Jesus tells us, “With man it is impossible.” No matter what you do, no matter what you give up, you cannot merit your way into God’s kingdom. You can’t do it. Giving up your “stuff” doesn’t make up for, or atone for, your sins.

“With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” You can’t do it! God’s got to do it! God’s got to get you in. And he does it through this same Jesus who is speaking to us today. It’s impossible for you to do anything to atone for your sins. But it is possible–in fact, it is the case–that Jesus has done this for you. He, the Son of God, left behind the riches of heaven to come down into this world of idolatry and unbelief. Jesus took the way of suffering and death on the cross to rescue us from the domain of the devil and to bring us into the kingdom of God. Jesus brought the kingdom of God into our midst, the kingdom of blessing and salvation. Through his death and resurrection, through our baptism into Christ and the gift of the Spirit, we enter the kingdom of God. “All things are possible with God,” even the salvation of sinners like you and me.

So the wealth we leave behind is the wealth that we worship. It is the love of money, when it become a god for us–that is what we must leave behind, because it is a competing god. Mammon–money, possessions, and “stuff”–is a false god that cannot save. The only God who can save us is the one true God, the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit.

So to enter God’s kingdom, there is a wealth we must leave. But when we do, there is a wealth we receive. Peter remembers how Jesus had told the rich young ruler to leave his wealth behind and to come follow him. Well, these disciples had left their fishing boats and so forth. So Peter says, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” To which Jesus replies, “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.”

What is the wealth we receive when we enter the kingdom? Jesus lists three types of things we receive in abundance. First, in place of all the stuff and people we leave behind, we gain a hundredfold. “There is no one . . . who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands.” Notice, Jesus says we receive it “now in this time.” What on earth does Jesus mean by this?

What it means is, when you enter the kingdom you gain a whole new set of people and resources, in the form of the church. The church is God’s family, here in this place and all around the world. When you come into the kingdom, you come into a family of caring people who help each other out. In that sense, you do gain a hundred times as many “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands.” Some of the family members who are here to help you, you can see around you in the pews. These are your brothers and sisters. At the same time, they are the ones who may need your help from time to time. This is why it is important for all of us to be here, in church, physically present, so we can know and share our needs and our loving help with one another.

So the first wealth you receive when you enter the kingdom is the multiplication of your resources and relationships in the form of the church. The second thing you will receive in abundance, though, is something you may not want. And that is, “persecutions.” Jesus says you receive a hundredfold now in this time houses and brothers and sisters, etc., and then he adds, “with persecutions.” Dear Christians, because you belong to Christ–note how Jesus says, “for my sake and for the gospel”–because you belong to Christ, you will receive persecutions. Being a Christian in this world is not easy. Jesus tells us that in advance. But know that it is Jesus who is telling you this. He it is who suffered and died to win you victory over your enemies–the devil and the world and death itself.

And that brings us to the last type of wealth you receive when you come into the kingdom. Jesus tells us what it is: “and in the age to come eternal life.” This wealth is the greatest wealth there is. It is a super-abundance of life. Life in the highest quality, life in the greatest quantity. Everlasting life, perfected and restored, life extended into an unending eternity. Friends, there is an age to come that we do not see yet. There is an age coming when our Lord Jesus Christ will return and raise us from our graves and give us glorious, immortal bodies. This will be eternal life, lived in perfect harmony with God and all his saints. No more sin, no more sorrow. Streets paved with gold. Gates made of pearl. No more hunger or thirst, no more tears or heartache. “In the age to come eternal life.”

The wealth we leave when we follow Jesus in faith–that wealth is deceptive and fleeting. Moth and rust destroy, thieves break in and steal. Money makes a lousy god. It doesn’t last, and it cannot save you. But oh, what wealth we receive when we enter the kingdom of God! We gain a hundredfold, now in this time–all our brothers and sisters in Christ’s church. We receive persecutions, also, because we belong to Christ. But that is more than offset by the eternal life we will receive when Christ returns. All this is the wealth we receive when we enter the kingdom of God. What a treasure we have, what riches we possess, through Christ our Savior!

“If I were a rich man. . . .” Well, come to think of it, I am! And so are you!

Published in: on October 16, 2021 at 8:32 pm  Leave a Comment  
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