Will there be rich people in Heaven?

gospel of mark heaven money riches

Recently, I was having a discussion with a group of people about their best financial experiences.  Specifically, the conversation centered around how much we considered to be a healthy amount of income to earn in a single day, followed by some discussion about the most any one of us had ever earned during a 24 hour period.

A few days after that, I saw a news story about a contract extension that was given to a professional athlete.  His contract was extended by several years and his “guaranteed payout” during that time period was $55 million dollars.  I’m guessing that athlete probably considered the day he signed that contract to be his best financial day ever.

Among followers of Christ, there is often some debate regarding concepts like financial stewardship and money in general.  Certain Christians consider money intrinsically evil while others seem perfectly comfortable with it.  Some treat poverty like a badge of honor while others treat financial prosperity like it should be the dominant goal objective of our lives.

Is it OK to be wealthy, or is accumulating financial riches a bad idea?  

Will there be rich people in heaven?  Mark 10:17-31 gives us some clarity on this question.

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 except God alone. 19 You 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.’”  (Mark 10:17-19)

During the days of Christ’s earthly ministry, people wanted to hear His opinion.  He taught as someone with great authority, and He demonstrated a clear understanding of the Scriptures and theology in general.  So as Christ was about to continue His travels, a wealthy man ran up to Him, knelt before Him respectfully, and asked Jesus to clarify how he might inherit eternal life.

That man’s question is a question that’s often on the minds of most people on this planet.  Intrinsically, we desire to live forever.  We know our bodies are going to wear out, so our thinking drifts toward the eternal, and it seems like just about everyone has theories on how eternal life can be obtained.  This man who approached Jesus wanted to hear Christ’s answer to that question.

I find Jesus’ initial response to the man’s question to be rather revealing.  The man respectfully addressed Jesus as, “Good Teacher.”  In a manner that revealed something important about Christ’s divine nature, Jesus questioned him as to why he chose this greeting.  Jesus stressed that no one is truly good except for God (ie. Psalm 14), so in calling Jesus “Good Teacher,” this man was essentially affirming Christ’s divine nature whether He realized He was doing this or not.

From there, Jesus began the process of illustrating that in order to obtain eternal life, your righteousness must match the righteousness of the giver of eternal life.  Scripture makes it clear elsewhere that when we stop trusting in ourselves, our efforts, and our possessions to save us and start trusting in Jesus instead of those things, Christ’s righteousness is imputed into our accounts.

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,  (Rom. 4:3-5)

 I’m glad the epistle to the Romans explains the imputed righteousness of Christ, but to help the rich young man understand this important theological truth, Jesus started listing some of the 10 Commandments that speak about honoring your parents while at the same time not committing murder, adultery, and acts of deception.

 I don’t know what you think about this list, but when I read the 10 Commandments, I’m forced to admit that I haven’t kept them perfectly.  This man, however, acted like keeping them wasn’t much of a struggle for him.

And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 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.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  (Mark 10:20-22)

 I find this man’s initial answer a little comical.  In broader terms, it illustrates just how likely any of us may be to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt while judging the actions and motives of other people more severely.  This man was apparently convinced that he was pretty adept at keeping the 10 Commandments even since the days of his childhood.  So Jesus used the man’s self-confidence as a bridge to take things a little further and expose the idolatry that continued to blind this man’s heart.

 It’s also wonderful to see that in expressing words of truth that were about to break this man’s heart, Jesus spoke these words in love.  Jesus genuinely loved this man and wanted him to gain an understanding of the deeper spiritual matters that he was clearly missing, so He confronted His self-righteousness and informed him that there was something important he lacked in his quest to obtain eternal life.

 What more could he lack if he was keeping the commandments?

 Jesus instructed him to do one additional thing… sell everything he had, donate the proceeds to the poor, and then come follow Him.  Not surprisingly, the man was troubled by this instruction and walked away from Jesus because in giving this instruction, Christ exposed what this man really trusted.  This wealthy man’s faith was really in the work of his hands and the fruit of his labor, just like the majority of people on this planet.

 If you call yourself a Christian, your faith should never be in the work of your hands or the fruits of your labor.  Your faith should be in Jesus who did the ultimate work that needed to be done for you.  The work He did to atone for your sin was sufficient.  No effort on your behalf could ever match it, nor is any other further sacrifice necessary.

But we must truly have exclusive faith in Jesus if we’re going to receive the benefit of the work He has accomplished.  

If, like the man mentioned in this passage, there’s a part of us that’s still trying to trust something else like our efforts or our riches, can it really be said that we possess saving faith in Jesus?

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.”  (Mark 10:23-25)

 It’s wise for us to observe the words Christ communicated in this passage, particularly because many of us live with a level of wealth that’s far beyond the standard of living that every generation that has come before us has ever enjoyed.  As Christ revealed, it’s very difficult for those who have been blessed with earthly riches to enter the kingdom of God because the idol of earthly wealth has a very powerful pull.

People sacrifice their health, their sanity, their family, and their faith to obtain the riches of this world.  Many people die with a full bank account and bankrupt soul.  Don’t let that be you.  

 There isn’t anything intrinsically wrong with being wealthy, it’s just that most people cannot handle it.  And if the wealth you’ve obtained has become an idol, it would be better to give it away than to hold onto it and reject the privilege of following Jesus.

Using a little hyperbole, Jesus commented that it’s easier for a large animal like a camel to fit through the tiny hole of a sewing needle than it is for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God because most cannot even fathom possessing hearts that are content and satisfied in Christ alone.

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.”  (Mark 10:26-31)

 Understandably, Christ’s words surprised his disciples.  In some ways, it made salvation seem impossible, but Christ made a point to remind them that salvation is really a work of God from start to finish, and even though this standard of righteousness was impossible for men, God most certainly could make salvation possible by keeping His perfect righteous standards on our behalf through the person and work of Jesus.

Jesus also reminded His followers that there are greater things in store for us in the kingdom of God than anything we might forsake in order to follow Christ more devotedly.  There are many people on this earth who live in opulent wealth and live as first among their peers, but the kingdom of God is going to be filled with people who appear to be among the least on this earth, yet in the eyes of God they are highly esteemed.

 A great example of that was demonstrated by Jesus in the verses immediately preceding this passage.

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.  (Mark 10:13-16)

 According to the standards of this world, children are poor and dependent on others, but according to the standard of God, they provide a beautiful illustration of what it looks like to be rich in faith and trust God to meet their needs.

 One of the things that impresses me most about young children is their ability to be satisfied with the simplest things.  Not long ago, four young children that my daughter regularly babysits visited our house along with their mother.  Before they left, I gave each child a small toy that they could play with in the car on the way home.  I’m pretty sure those toys cost me pennies, but by the reaction the children gave, you would have thought I had given them diamonds.

 The big lesson the Lord is trying to teach us during our sojourn on this planet is that He can be trusted.  Our hearts can find real contentment in Him.  If we have Jesus, we already have everything we really need.  There is nothing this world can offer that will satisfy our souls and grace us with eternal life like Christ.  In Jesus alone do we find what we truly and sincerely need.  With childlike faith, He invites us to find complete rest in Him. 

© John Stange, 2024


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