Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. – Mark 10:21
Please read to the end:
People (in this case some Christians) use this verse among others to condemn rich Church leaders and condemn prosperity preaching (which I personally find very saddening) which is denial of the Gospel (Good News) just like the Apostle Paul said,
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. – 2Timothy 3:5
I do not deny that there are some Christians who have put riches before God (2Timothy 3:4), which is wrong (I will mention later) but saying prosperity is altogether unbiblical and against God’s word is very wrong.
The following verses are proofs that prosperity is God’s perfect will for His children:
Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers. – 3John 1:2
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich. – 2Corinthians 9:8
The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it. – Proverbs 10:22
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. – James 1:17
8:18 But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is today… 28:12 Yahweh will open to you his good treasure in the sky, to give the rain of your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You will lend to many nations, and you will not borrow. – Deuteronomy 8:18; 28:12
And so on…But in this article I want to focus specifically on the account of Mark (The conversation between Jesus and the rich young man. I will show you how “hypocritical” these groups of Christians are.
Firstly, Mark 10:21 tells us that Jesus “loved” this rich young man:
“Then Jesus beholding him loved him…”
This is a proof that He does not hate rich people!
Secondly, this rich young man was not a Church leader; neither was he a synagogue leader.
If therefore, these groups of Christians condemn rich Church leaders, why do they themselves not following what Jesus said? Why don’t they sell all that they have and give them to the poor? Because Jesus in here did not address Church leaders!
Ironically though, when He addressed His disciples (Apostles) who have followed this instruction already (“Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee” – Mark 10:28), He promised them that they would be rich materially and spiritually (on earth and in heaven):
29. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake and the Gospel’s, 30. But he shall receive an hundredfold NOW in THIS time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; AND IN THE WORLD TO COME eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
It is clear that, Jesus talks about both material and spiritual prosperity in here. Question, what if these rich Church leaders have already followed what Jesus said and thus are blessed by God with riches? And that what you see is just 10% of what they have and they still give God the 90% of what they have?
Remember what the Bible says, “who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for GOD IS ABLE TO MAKE HIM STAND.” (Romans 14:4)
This is crystal clear; only GOD can have the final judgment! Because we don’t know who is rich for following God and who is not.
Paul said that all things are ours on earth and in heaven:
3:21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For ALL THINGS ARE YOURS; 3:22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or THINGS PRESENT, or THINGS TO COME; all are yours…(1 Corinthians 3:21-22)
Let’s elucidate a bit on this:
The Bible says that the earth and the fullness thereof are God’s (Psalm 24:1; 1Corinthians 10:26…), and we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17) who is heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). No wonder He said whatever is God’s, is His (John 17:10). Do all these sound like a God who hates His kids to be rich?
Thirdly, does God disapprove some rich people? Absolutely YES! But these are people who do wrong things, people who put their riches first before God:
And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for THEM that TRUST in RICHES to enter into the kingdom of God! (Mark 10:24).
It’s people who “trust” in riches, not all the rich! (See Psalm 49, Psalm 73, and James 5 for more)
Warning for departing from God because of riches:
11 Beware lest you forget Yahweh your God, in not keeping his commandments, and his ordinances, and his statutes, which I command you today; 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full, and have built fine houses, and lived in them; 13 and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; 14 then your heart might be lifted up, and you forget Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage; 15 who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, with fiery serpents and scorpions, and thirsty ground where there was no water; who poured water for you out of the rock of flint; 16 who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers didn’t know; that he might humble you, and that he might prove you, to do you good at your latter end: 17 and lest you say in your heart, “My power and the might of my hand has gotten me this wealth.” 18 But you shall remember Yahweh your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth; that he may establish his covenant which he swore to your fathers, as it is today. 19 It shall be, if you shall forget Yahweh your God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you today that you shall surely perish. 20 As the nations that Yahweh makes to perish before you, so you shall perish; because you wouldn’t listen to Yahweh your God’s voice. (Deuteronomy 8:11-20)
17 Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; 18 that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; 19 laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life. (1Timothy 6:17-19)
This is warning for the rich, that they must always put God first and that they must help the needy (which the poor will never be able to do).
Finally, not only is this passage (Mark 10:17-30) about “Prosperity” but it is also about “Salvation”.
Actually the story started when he asked Jesus how to be saved:
As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
And the disciples were astonished when Jesus said that it’s difficult for the rich to enter heaven:
They were exceedingly astonished, saying to him, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:26)
Why were they shocked? Because they too were rich; Peter, Andrew, John and James were fishermen who owned their own boats, Matthew were tax collector…just to name a few!
I have to mention this because the person who argued with me told me to read the last verse of the passage about this story that says, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” (Mark 10:31); which has no connection whatsoever with material prosperity by the way. What this means is that the Jews were the first people God chose to be His (Amos 3:2), but they are to be the last to receive salvation because they did/do not believe in Jesus as their Savior:
I said therefore to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.– John 8:24
So, because they did not believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Savior, He said:
Therefore I tell you, God’s Kingdom will be taken away from you, and will be given to a nation producing its fruit. – Matthew 21:43
The Jews are not yet saved:
Brothers, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God is for Israel, that they may be saved. – Romans 10:1
Therefore I endure all things for the chosen ones’ sake that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. – 2 Timothy 2:10
That’s what Jesus meant when He said, “But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” (Mark 10:31); it has nothing to do with material prosperity as in supposing that the rich will be last (lost) and the poor will be first (saved). The Jews, even though, are the first people God chose will be the last to receive the true salvation in Christ Jesus.
By saying, poor people will be all saved is saying Jesus’ death does not save because that would mean that salvation is determined by your possessions. Actually, people who commit crimes are poor people. Because poverty isn’t measured by what you have but your state of mind (greed…). This is why the Bible says that the love of money is root of all evil (1Timothy 6:10). Notice, it says “the love of money”, not “the abundance of money”… Someone loves money when he is willing to do anything for money, that’s the proof that he is poor. Thus, being poor won’t automatically saves!
The Jews knew/know that Christ will come to save them but the problem is that they rejected Jesus as the Christ. They called Him blasphemous and eventually killed Him for telling them who He really is (Matthew 26:63-65).
God is the author of wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18; Proverbs 10:22) and want His children to be rich (3John 1:3; 2Corinthians 8:9; Deuteronomy 28:12-13…). He is not against prosperity if you put Him first before everything and that you get your riches legally. By legally, I mean with sincere heart if you are a Church leader because I know that certain people pretend to be Church leaders just for the money and personal gain, I don’t disagree with that but to consider all rich Church leaders to be the same is wrong! After all, Jesus commissioned us to preach the Gospel all over the world, how can one do this without money? No one would give you free airtime on TV, you have to pay for it, and the same goes with the venue if you want to organize a meeting…
So I think we have to stop judging, let God judge those whom He found guilty because He is the righteous Judge and He told us not to judge (Matthew 7:1). Why is that? Because we are not perfect ourselves as Jesus continued in the next few verses (Matthew 7:2-5).