Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost - October 17, 2021
[Mark 10:23-31] 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!” 24 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! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 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, 30 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
What Is Your Wealth?
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to the enter the kingdom of God.” “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Shwew! I’m off the hook.
“I’m not wealthy at all! It’ll be a breeze. This is about those other people, those rich people.” Not so fast. Everyone is rich to someone else. And there’s always something more we could’ve given. And, what is wealth anyway? What does it mean to “be rich” or “have wealth” in this world?
Our Lord Jesus spoke these words in response to a conversation He had just had with the Rich Young Man – who was, in fact, wealthy. He had money. But was money itself his problem?
The Rich Young Man had come to Jesus asking, “What good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” The young man is pointing to himself, “what must I do?”, presuming it does or even could depend on him.
So, Jesus points the young man even further to himself – to show him where it is that he most falls short. Jesus says, “If you would be perfect” – which means, if you would be like the only One who is good, Jesus – “If you would be perfect, sell all you have and give to the poor. Then you’ll have treasure in heaven.”
The young man can’t do it. Not even for heavenly treasure can he give up what his earthly heart clings to. Not even for eternal life could he give up what he clings to in this life. The young man had claimed that he’s kept the commandments his whole life, but when the Lord commands this he learns in himself that he’s really not so good.
So, what is wealth? Is money itself that rich young man’s problem? No. Money in itself is good – it’s part of this creation. It’s used by you to supply needed and good things for you, for your family, for your neighbor. What is wrong – what makes that young man’s money into troublesome wealth and riches – is his heart’s attachment to it.
His fear, love, and trust are in his treasure. Without it he is insecure, heartbroken, shaken. His wealth has a string, a rope pulling on his heart and his gut – a string to which only His Savior should be attached, not anything in this world.
Wealth is whatever we value. Wealth and riches are whatever get the attachment of our heart. “Fear, love, and trust.” We remember that language? Our Small Catechism uses it: What is the First Commandment? “You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean? “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
Whatever gets the trust, the faith of my heart is my unrighteous wealth and riches. If fact, I’ve made it my god, whatever it is. Respect, property, leisure, work, home, time away from home, family, time away from family. Some other particular person’s opinion of me. My reputation among friends. Things illicit – lust, pleasure, alcohol. Or good things – including money.
Any good or bad thing, when it captures my greatest fear, love, and trust – or when I cannot do without it – when I don’t want to go and be with the Lord because I’ll miss it – when it keeps me attached and anchored away from doing the Lord’s will – then it’s become wealth and riches, and how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven!
“Who then can be saved?!”, the disciples asked. Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
Who then can be saved? You can be saved. You are. Not by what is in you. Not by what your heart can do. You were saved 2,000 years ago when the one Truly Rich Man gave up all He had, spent it all for you on the cross, and saved poor, miserable sinners.
Jesus is the one who has done what Jesus commanded. Jesus is the one who has passed through the eye of the needle and has entered through the narrow gate. Jesus who is first became last to put we who are last first. Jesus alone has done it. He is God and Man, and with God all things have proven possible.
He has saved men and women like you and me who have so much sin and riches attached to our hearts. He has saved. He has forgiven. He gave up all and left His heavenly home to come and gain all of you.
Jesus now has many brothers and sisters and mothers and homes and lands – namely, you all and your homes and your land – and your house here, which is God’s house.
You, a redeemed sinner, belong to Jesus and are His treasure – you are His riches. Now that you are His, sometimes belonging to Him and doing His will and living in accord with His name will cost you in this life.
Some, due to persecution, have even been rejected from family and home and land. Others, like the disciples, had to leave their hometowns due to their call into the Lord’s ministry, so that Peter said, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”
You lose other things – the devil is after you – or you miss out on opportunities because, as a redeemed child of God, you can’t engage in the under handed ways of the world.
Jesus, in His mercy, shares His true wealth with you in such a way that anything you lose in this life for His sake – and anything you don’t get to gain for His sake – is paid to you better in other ways, in His house, and in the life to come.
Brothers and sisters, since Jesus has given all, has passed through the narrow and agonizing way of the cross, for you – to make you His own – let Him daily and always be your own and your one and only treasure in which you trust. In Jesus, poor sinners now have the true wealth and all of it. Amen.