33 – Sacrifice and Reward
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?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 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.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
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.”
- Defraud: Take or keep something illegally
- Honour: Regard with great respect
What is the most important thing in your life?
Looking at the passage, what was keeping the man from following Jesus?
Monks are one of the most popular portrayals of Christians. These people abstained from all money and belongings and left their family and their friends in order to live a hard life of poverty. They did this in order to spend time thinking about God, and in order to escape from the temptations of the world.
Reading the words of Jesus here, it is easy to understand how people could think that this is what God expected of them. But is this what Jesus is really saying? We have not heard him saying this to everyone, so is there something special about this situation?
We have the answer in the sentence, ‘disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.’ When discussing the perfect standard of God, the man obviously feels that he has done everything that he needs to do in order to go to heaven. But when Jesus suggests he needs to give his belongings away, the idea breaks his heart. This was asking too much. Obviously, the things that were really important to him were how much money he had and what people thought of him. Jesus explains that rich people are in great danger, because to follow God looks like a great sacrifice to them. He uses the amusing example of a camel going through a needle and saying that this is easier than a rich person going to heaven. And yet the truth is that no-one can be saved without God’s work in their hearts.
That which is highlighted here is that sacrificing everything in order to follow Jesus Christ is no loss at all. Firstly, his followers receive all the privileges of being part of his Church. But they also have the promise that they will receive a reward in heaven – a much better treasure, which lasts for ever. It is not the amount of money we have in this life which makes us rich, but the fact we have received life everlasting through believing in Jesus. After all, isn’t God so much better than anything the world can offer?
Do you think that you are losing out by following Jesus?
How should Jesus’ words affect the way we think about money and possessions?
that Jesus will be the greatest treasure in your life, and for the strength to use everything that you own for his glory.