This question comes from the well-known passage about the rich young ruler. The rich man wants to know what he can do to inherit eternal life. He learns that what he must do is impossible to do.
10:17And 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?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You 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.’” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And 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.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. – Mark 10:17-22
- The rich man expects to achieve eternal life by his own efforts. He asks Jesus what good thing he should do to gain eternal life.
- Jesus responds that there is only one who is good: God himself.
- Family and the village home were considered more important than life itself. Jesus is asking the rich man to put Jesus ahead of the two supreme commitments of his culture.
- The rich man turns away, not just because he loves his wealth too much to put Jesus ahead of it, but also because he realized if this is what required to earn eternal life, then he can’t earn it.
- The New Testament does not teach that all wealth should be given to the poor. However, the young ruler’s money insulated him and prevented him from seeing his true need.
10:23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus 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, 30who 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. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” – Mark 10:23-31
- The story that there was a gate called the “needle’s eye” which a camel could pass through it by getting on knees is not true. The story was first suggested in the 1800s by a man named F.W. Farrar. It is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.
- Conventional wisdom was that if a man had riches, it was because God favored him and blessed him with wealth. Thus if even the rich (whom God is rewarding) can’t enter the kingdom of heaven, who can?
- This text does not teach that we should all divest ourselves of wealth. Nor does not say that it is easy for the poor to get into heaven.
- Who will get into heaven? Who can please God? It is impossible. No one can do it. We need a savior.
- “The first will be last” – Those who think themselves most deserving in righteousness will find those they regard as sinners prove more righteous than they.
- The parable is part of the response to Peter’s question, “What will there be for us?” The answer is there will be eternal life because God gives everyone who follows Him what they need.
- We get what we need, not what we deserve.
- The lesson of the rich young man is that we can easily deceive ourselves into believing that we are good enough and have done what is necessary to gain eternal life.
- Jesus answers, “No one except God himself is good enough for that.” Our job is to recognize our sinfulness and to seek the One who can change it.
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