The story of the rich ruler, in Mark 10 identified as a man who ran up to Jesus, reveals the cost of entering the Kingdom of God. His decision to keep his wealth and not follow Jesus, reminds me of what martyred missionary Jim Elliot had said that one is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to acquire what he cannot lose. Jesus pointed the man to eternal life, but he refused it in order to keep his earthly possessions for a season. The man’s decision reflects the human tendency to value that which we have acquired in order to stay comfortable and established on earth, but fail to reckon what it truly costs us to live in that manner.
Jesus explained to his disciples that it is hard for those who have wealth to enter into the Kingdom of God. Jesus used a metaphor, obviously known to the disciples, to describe how difficult it was for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom. Jesus spoke of a camel going through the eye of a needle being easier than it was for a rich man to enter into the kingdom. Hearing Jesus’ words, the disciples concluded that it was impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom, but Jesus clarified that what was impossible for man was possible with God. When Peter declared that they, his disciples, had left everything to follow Jesus, Jesus responded that those who give up earthly pursuits and possessions, receive much more in return through their association with the kingdom.
Jesus’ teaching here reminds us of how the values of the Kingdom of God are contrary to the values of the world. Living according to Kingdom of God values is not difficult or complicated. It can be summed up in what the prophet Micah declared: “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you, But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). We will we never be satisfied with the acquisition of wealth, fame or power, rather we will be satisfied when we live in relationship with Jesus, practicing justice, love and kindness and then receive everything we need as gifts through our association with God’s Kingdom. This is why Jesus called men to himself by inviting them to take his yoke upon them because it is easy and light. Implied in Jesus’ words is the truth that trying to live according to the world’s values wears us out, but by relinquishing that yoke for Jesus’ yoke we find true freedom. Unfortunately, the rich ruler did not grasp what Jesus offered him, so he left Jesus grieving. Hopefully, we will make a different decision.