Christ has much to say about personal wealth and discipleship in Mark 10:17–27, and too many people have misunderstood His teaching. A simplistic, surface-level reading of our Lord’s words has led some to the conclusion that Jesus saw material riches as inherently evil and poverty as an inherently virtuous condition. Too often, our Savior’s teaching on riches has been co-opted by those who promote economic ideas such as socialism and governmental redistribution of wealth.
Yes, Jesus warns us in Mark 10:17–27 about the spiritual dangers that can attend wealth; however, as we have seen, His warnings are not only for rich people but for anyone who would love money more than Christ. Material riches in themselves are indifferent; it is our hearts that matter. Rich and poor alike can be lovers of money and not lovers of Jesus. All of us, no matter our socioeconomic status, must regularly examine our hearts to discern whether we put our trust in our bank accounts or in the Lord Jesus Christ.
While material wealth is not necessarily a sign of godliness, it indeed can be a gift from God. Jesus makes this very point in Mark 10:28–30 as He concludes this section of teaching on wealth and discipleship. Christ assures His disciples that those who forsake all else to follow Him will receive a hundredfold return in this life. This return includes such things as houses and lands, which are material blessings (Mark 10:29–30). Jesus, in His sovereign administration, does grant some to be wealthy as a reward for following Him.
Our Lord adds that these things come “with persecutions” (v. 30). There is always a cost to following Christ. Some pay what seems to be a higher cost than others, but no believer follows Jesus without paying an earthly price. Some lose all their material goods. Some lose relationships with loved ones. Yet even when we lose something for obeying Jesus, what we receive in return is far better. John Calvin comments, “Though persecutions always await the godly in this world, and though the cross, as it were, is attached to their back, yet so sweet is the seasoning of the grace of God, which gladdens them, that their condition is more desirable than the luxuries of kings.”
Finally, the hundredfold return we receive in this life, which Jesus administers differently to different people, is not worth comparing to the ultimate prize—eternal life. All who put Christ above all else now will be blessed with rewards that can never be lost.