Friday, September 30, 2005

Laying Up Treasure ~ The Hundredfold Return

Then Jesus. Looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (Mark 10:21)

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecution — and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30)
Both of these passages are part of the same Gospel narrative, found in Mark 10:17-31. It is the story of the rich, young ruler who came to Jesus asking, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life” (v. 17).

Jesus answered, “You know the commandments,” and listed the ones that pertain to our relationship with others. (He left out the first four, pertaining to God and the Sabbath, and the tenth commandment, which pertains to covetousness).

The young man answered, “I have kept all these from my youth.” That is when Jesus looked at him, loved him and said, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”

The was more than the young man could bare: “He was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22). He desired eternal life, but he wasn’t willing to lay up his treasure in heaven. Though he was a good and honorable man, he somehow missed the truth there is no eternal life without being established in heaven.

Eternal life is not simply about living a really long time (for eternity, in fact); it is just as much about a quality of life. Jesus spoke about this when said that He came that we might have life and that we might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). This is life indeed.

This young man wanted to have eternal life, but he wanted it to somehow originate from the earthly dimension. But as Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). To be “born again,” literally means to be “born from above” by the Spirit of God. But the rich, young ruler was not ready to receive that new birth, not willing for his possessions to be found there.
Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” (Mark 10:23-25)
The problem was not that the young man had riches; the problem was that riches had him. He put more trust in his possessions than he did in God, and as Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “You cannot serve both God and mammon.” When it came down to real choices with real consequences, the man chose his riches.
And they [the disciples] were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:26-27)
The rich, young ruler appeared to have the blessing of God on his life, and to a certain extent, he did. He knew enough of the covenant and received enough wisdom to prosper and become successful in so many areas of his life (although, as Jesus noted, he lacked on thing). If it was so very hard for this blessed young man to enter the kingdom of God, then how could the disciples ever hope to make it?

Jesus looked at them with just as much love as he had for the rich, young ruler, and said, “With men, it is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” Not a very detailed answer, but a very hopeful one. It is not about us, our abilities, our achievements, our possessions. It is about God, His power and His promise.
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” (v. 28)
Matthew’s Gospel adds, “Therefore, what shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27). Peter and the disciples had given up everything for the sake of Jesus and the gospel — they had laid up for themselves treasure in heaven, just as the rich, young ruler had opportunity to do — but what does all that really mean?
So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecution — and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30)
We learn several important things, in this passage, about laying up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

Laying up treasure in heaven is about following Jesus and leaving all for the sake of the gospel. It is no longer trusting in ourselves or in anything in this world. It is about living our lives in complete dependence upon Him.

Laying up treasure in heaven brings a hundredfold return. A hundredfold return is not 100%—that would simply be a one-fold return. A hundredfold return is 10,000%. What we receive is of far greater value than what we leave behind.

Laying up treasure in heaven brings the hundredfold return in this life. There are two ages now at work in the world:
  1. This present age, fallen into darkness and sin. The devil is the god of this age, seeking to blind the minds of people to the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). We are not to be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2).
  2. The age to come, which is already breaking into the world to swallow up the present darkness with the light of the gospel and the glory of God.
Many religious Christians think treasure laid up in heaven, and someday we’ll be able to go there and have access to it all — but not before then. In sharp contradiction, Jesus declares that the hundredfold return is for this time, this life, this present age. It is for our use as we seek after the kingdom of God, His rule and reign emerging to transform this present age.

Laying up treasure in heaven also brings persecution in this life. This is another reason why we know that the hundredfold return is for this life, for no persecution originates from heaven or the age to come. It comes from the god of this present age. But the resources we have in God are much greater than any persecution we could ever receive in this world.

Laying up treasure in heaven is laying hold of the eternal life we have in Jesus Christ. Through faith in Christ, we are already “born from above,” born of heaven and the age to come (John 3:3). We are already citizens of heaven and of that age (Philippians 3:20). We are already seated in Christ Jesus at the right hand of the Father (Ephesians 2:6), a position of ruling and reigning. When we lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven, we are position ourselves to experience the flow of life of the age to come, even as that age breaks into the world in this present age.

When you lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, they are not at all lost to this life. No, they come back to you much more powerfully in this life as God establishes His rule and reign in and through you and me.