And Jesus again answering says to them, “Children, how difficult it is that those who trust in riches should enter into the kingdom of God! … Verily I say to you, There is no one who has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, that shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time: houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the coming age life eternal. But many first shall be last, and the last first.”
– Mark 10:24,29-31 JND
How rich is too rich to enter the kingdom of God? It’s easy to look at the story of the rich young ruler and think he was over the limit, but it’s not a question of how much he had, but of how much his possessions had him. You don’t have to be in the top 1% of the wealthy for it to be difficult to go through the ‘eye of the needle’. Anyone, even the poor, can be hindered from coming to the Lord by their possessions. Whatever you are unwilling to freely give up can be your downfall. You don’t even need money to reap the evil that comes from the love of money.
The things listed in verse 29 are temporal. Yes, they’re important, but not as important as Jesus. It’s a matter of priorities. We are to love the Lord our God in a higher way than we are to love others (Mark 12:30-31). We show this love, not by what has been taken from us, but by what we have freely left to follow Jesus. James and John left their father to follow Jesus (Mark 1:20). The rest of the disciples also left all to follow Him (Mark 10:28). No, they didn’t ‘divorce’ their family… but they did obey Jesus’ call when it came. They put Him first.
Jesus promised that those who left family and possessions for His sake and the gospel would receive 100 times more in this life (…not as possessions, for we are strangers and pilgrims on this earth). Among those blessings we receive when we leave our temporal belongings is something that seems out of place: persecutions. It’s easy to think of mistreatment as a downside to our following Jesus, but it’s not. Elsewhere, Jesus said we are to view persecution for His sake as a blessing, and we are to leap for joy when it happens to us… because it means we have great reward waiting for us in heaven.
“Blessed are ye when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from them, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as wicked, for the Son of man’s sake: rejoice in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in the heaven, for after this manner did their fathers act toward the prophets.”
– Luke 6:22-23 JND
Persecution isn’t something to fear. Jesus didn’t fear it, and neither did the apostles. Don’t you fear it either.
Jesus doesn’t ask us to go through anything His didn’t go through first. Jesus gave up all when He came to earth. He was first, but placed Himself as last, serving sinners. He was persecuted and ‘lost’ His life for the sake of the gospel. And now God has raised Him higher than all and put Him over all, and His name is blessed above every name. Let us follow Him.