The Gospel of Mark: a commentary & meditation 
"You will have treasure in heaven"

Scripture: Mark 10:17-27

17 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?" 18 And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" 20 And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." 21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." 22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard 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 man 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 men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God."

Meditation: What gives hope and satisfaction to our desire for happiness and security?  A young man who had the best the world could offer -- wealth and security -- came to Jesus because he lacked one thing.  He wanted the kind of lasting peace and happiness which money could not buy him.  The answer he got, however, was not what he was looking for.  He protested that he kept all the commandments; but Jesus spoke to the trouble in his heart.  One thing kept him from giving himself whole-heartedly to God.  While he lacked nothing in material goods, he was nonetheless possessive of what he had.  He placed his hope and security in what he possessed.  So when Jesus challenged him to make God his one true possession and treasure, he became dismayed.  Why did he go away from Jesus with sadness rather than with joy?  His treasure and his hope for happiness were misplaced. Treasure has a special connection to the heart, the place of desire and longing, the place of will and focus. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. The Lord himself is the greatest treasure we can have. Giving up everything else to have the Lord as our treasure is not sorrowful, but the greatest joy. See Jesus' parable about the treasure hidden in a field (Matthew 13:44). Selling all that we have could mean many different things--our friends, our job, our "style" of life, what we do with our free time. Jesus challenged the young man because his heart was possessive. He was afraid to give to others for fear that he would lose what he had gained. Those who are generous towards God and others find that they cannot outgive God in generosity. God blesses us with spiritual goods that far outweigh the fleeting joys of material goods. He alone can satisfy the deepest longing and desires of our heart. Are you willing to part with anything that might keep you from seeking true joy with Jesus?

Why does Jesus issue such a strong warning to the rich (as well as to the rest of us who desire to be rich)?  Was he really against wealth? We know that Jesus was not opposed to wealth per se, nor was he opposed to the wealthy.  He had many friends who were well-to-do, including some notorious tax collectors!  One even became an apostle!  Jesus' warning reiterated the teaching of the Old Testament wisdom: Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways (Proverbs 28:6; see also Psalm 37:16). Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist (Proverbs 23:4).  Jesus seems to say that it is nearly impossible for the rich to live as citizens of God's kingdom.  The camel was regarded as the largest animal in Palestine.  The "eye of the needle" could be interpreted quite literally or it could figuratively describe the narow and low gate of the city walls which was used by travellers when the larger public gate was locked after dark.  A normal sized man had to "lower" himself to enter that gate.  A camel would literally have to knell and crawl through it.  Why is Jesus so cautious about wealth?  Wealth can make us falsely independent.  The church at Laodicea was warned about their attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security:  "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (Revelations 3:17). Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness (see 1 Tim. 6:9-10).  Look at the lesson Jesus gave about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff).  They also neglected to serve God. The scriptures give us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.  Generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in eternity (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38). Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal.   The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure on God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?

"Lord, you have captured our hearts and opened to us the treasures of heaven. May you always be my treasure and delight and may nothing else keep me from giving you my all."

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 (c) 2000 Don Schwager