“Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’’ And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.’ 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.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 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.’ And they 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.’”
What Will Happen to Those Who Are Rich in Their Hearts?
Warm greetings to you all! Today, through the passage in Mark chapter 10, I would like to examine those whom God has a close relationship with.
As Jesus was walking on the road, a certain young man came to Him and knelt down before Him, asking, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus then said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’” The young man then said confidently that he had kept all the Law, saying, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” Then Jesus told him of one thing that he was lacking: “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” The young man was sad at this Word and went away deeply troubled, for he was a very wealthy man. Seeing him leave, Jesus then turned to His disciples and said that it is extremely difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God, so much so that 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. Then the disciples asked Him, “Who can then enter the Kingdom of God?” To this Jesus replied, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Be careful not to misinterpret this passage to mean that you cannot enter Heaven if you are materially rich, for the riches here do not refer to the wealth of the flesh, but the richness of the heart. And through today’s Scripture passage you need to grasp why God dislikes those who are rich in their hearts like this. You need to realize why Jesus said that it is more difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, and with this understanding you need to become a person who is poor in spirit to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus says that those who are rich in their hearts cannot enter the Kingdom of God. If one has a rich heart, it means that he is filled with his own things. Such people are too filled with their own thoughts and merits that they have no room for the Word of God to enter. Since God’s Word cannot enter them, they naturally reject the gospel and are unable to go to Heaven.
If one’s heart is filled with the richness of the flesh, it is impossible for them to enter the Kingdom of God. Those who are rich in their hearts have much of their own merits, and therefore it’s impossible for them to enter the Kingdom of God. You all know what a camel is, right? It has a relatively small head, a large body, and one or two humps on its back, quite ideal for transporting both goods and people. Camels are particularly indispensable for a means of transportation in a desert.
The eye of a needle, on the other hand, is a tiny hole. Can any camel ever go through this eye? No, of course not! No camel can go through the eye of a needle, no matter how small and thin it may be. You can try to cram it all you want, but it simply is not possible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. It’s hard enough to put a thread through the eye of a needle even with a perfect vision, let alone a large animal ever going through it? Like this, those who are too arrogant and rich in their hearts cannot accept the righteousness of God with thanksgiving, and therefore they cannot enter His Kingdom.
Why Did Jesus Say from the Beginning That It Is Difficult for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom of God?
Jesus told the young man to keep the Law if he wanted to inherit eternal life. He said this because one must first realize that he is indeed a sinner if he wants to believe in the Lord as his Savior, and it is the Law of God that teaches him this. Put differently, Jesus wanted to see if this young man who desired eternal life knew himself as a sinner. However, this young man considered himself righteous, thinking, “I have never killed anyone, never stolen anything, and never committed any adultery. My deeds are upright.” His heart was filled with his own righteousness.
Like this young man, when people today are told to hear the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit and wash away their sins, many claim that they are decent folks who have kept their ethics and morality. And on account of this they refuse to listen to the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit. Such people are all rich in their hearts. It’s hard for them enter Heaven because, spiritually speaking, they are too self-righteous to be washed clean from their sins.
To the rich young man who considered himself righteous, our Lord said, “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor. You will then have treasure in Heaven.” However, this passage does not mean that you can attain eternal life if you sell all your possessions and give them to the poor. Rather, it means that your greed for material possessions prevents your heart from being set on God. In other words, it means that you must throw away all the riches of your heart and the hubris of your flesh for God’s Word to enter. However, when this young man who had said that he wanted to obtain everlasting life, heard this Word of the Lord, he turned around in sorrow because his heart was still attached to his possessions. He was so close to emptying his heart and obtaining eternal life, but he had turned away from this opportunity.
Even today, there are so many people in this world who are rich in their hearts just like this young man. Their hearts are filled with their own fleshly arrogance and greed. Some people even boast of how much they can drink. “I drank two cases of beer yesterday. I couldn’t carry all that beer on my shoulders, but I could carry them in my stomach.” People brag about even such spurious things.
And others boast of their knowledge saying, “I received my musical training at the Julliard School,” or, “I graduated from a prestigious university and obtained an advanced degree.” There are so many people who brag about their secular knowledge. Every one of them has a rich heart of the flesh. Can they ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven without knowing and believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit? No, not only is this impossible, but they don’t want to place the Kingdom of God in the first place. This is because they are self-satisfied and self-complacent, such people do not have any expectations about the Kingdom of God, nor are they interested in the washing away of their sins. After all, they are so rich in their hearts that they lack nothing from God, and so what more would they need? One looks towards the Kingdom of God and dreams about it when one is lacking, but these people have no need for the Kingdom of God. Would the Kingdom of God ever come across their minds when they are so rich and so satisfied on this earth? No, they never think about God’s Kingdom.
What our Lord is telling us in today’s Scripture passage is not just addressing this young man, but it is addressed to everyone, including you and me sitting here. Would anyone who is rich on this earth and whose heart is wealthy really think about the Kingdom of God? Those who are meritorious in the flesh do not think about God’s Kingdom. On the contrary, they are preoccupied in accumulating even more worldly possessions. Those who have set their minds on studying want to go onto graduate school after college, and then onto a doctoral program. For some of them, having just one doctoral degree isn’t enough; they want more degrees, and go abroad to pursue their studies without really giving much thought to it.
The same thing happens when it comes to money as well. Many of you probably remember the scandal surrounding the 1997 bankruptcy of Hanbo, a conglomerate in Korea. The owner of Hanbo, Taesoo Chung had already been convicted of bribery in 1991 and received a suspended sentence of 5 years in another case involving real estate development. In 1997, he was sentenced to 15 years for his role in Hanbogate case. In his greed he had embezzled nearly $10 million dollars and brought down the company with his reckless management. However, far from repenting from this, early this year he was found to have embezzled funds at a private school where he was chairman of the board of directors, and he was once again sentenced to 3 years for this crime. He turned 83 this year. Yet even in such an old age, he could not resist his greed for money, and in his attempt to accumulate even more wealth, he found himself sitting in jail once again.
However, we can’t really condemn this man alone, for we also have such greed. What about you? Is your heart also rich, thinking to yourself, “I am good? I am gifted. I am rich. I am better than everyone else”? If you have this kind of mindset, you can never go to the Kingdom of God. What use is it then to be so wealthy in your heart when you can’t even enter God’s Kingdom? The riches of the heart are not worthy of boasting.
The Young Man Who Claimed Boldly to Have Kept the Law Was Extremely Rich in His Heart
The young man was asked, “Did you keep all the commandments requiring you not to murder, not to commit adultery, not to steal, not to bear false witness, and honor your parents?” Full of self confidence he answered by saying, “Yes, I have kept all such commandments from my youth.” What an arrogant heart he had!
Are we really capable of obeying the Word of God faithfully? Do we really obey every written Word of God? James 2:10 says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” This means that if you break even just one statute of the Law, then it’s the same as breaking the entire Law. So even if you’ve never committed murder, if you have lied, then the sin of murder is added onto the sins of lying. This is how God sees it. That’s how hard it is to keep the Law to perfection.
Can anyone then say with confidence that he has kept the Law perfectly? If we really understand the Word of God, then we can never be so confident to claim to have kept all the Law from our youth. The Law is such that the more we try to keep it, the more difficult it is to obey it. That’s because we are still in the flesh. And that’s why we are all insufficient, poor, and ultimately sinners.
What merit do we have? If we examine ourselves carefully, whatever merit we may have is of our own making, and when we compare ourselves to others, there actually isn’t much to be proud of. How can anyone claim to be meritorious before God? Everyone is the same. We don’t find any particularly gifted or ungifted people; they are all more or less the same. If there is one difference, it is just that some people are rich in their hearts while others are poor. There is no one thoroughly gifted or thoroughly ungifted. We all make the same mistakes that others make, and we all have the same weaknesses that they have. So no one can claim to be meritorious. What’s more, before God, all human beings are full of blemishes.
There is a saying in Korea that goes like this, “He is so full of himself even though he doesn’t have a dog’s horn.” What use is it for a dog to have a horn? Of course, no dog has a horn, but even if it did, it would be completely useless, unlike deer antlers that are used for traditional medicine in some parts of the world. Yet despite not having even such useless things—that is, despite having nothing—many people still do not want to relinquish their pride. Stiff necked fools insist they are meritorious.
Siddhartha, the founder of Buddhism, considered himself as the only virtuous man in heaven and on earth, and so he called himself a god. He also was a rich man whose heart was full of ego. If Siddhartha had come to Jesus and said, “What should I do to obtain everlasting life? Since I’ve shown mercy and done many good deeds, won’t I receive eternal life?” Jesus would have said to him, “First throw away your ego that’s filling up your heart.” Could anyone then attain everlasting life from God through His own acts? Are you sure you can do this? Do you have any merit at all?
It is when you realize that you have no merit at all to even have a hope for the Kingdom of God. It’s only then that your spiritual eyes are opened. When these eyes are opened, you will look towards the Kingdom of God rather than this earth. We have nothing to boast of before God. Nor do we have any virtue before man. We have no merit at all in any shape or form. Yet despite this, many people are still conceited. It’s such people whom God dislikes the most. He abhors those who are rich in their hearts. The Lord said that it is the poor in spirit who are blessed. Even if one is materially rich, if he is poor in his heart, then this is not a problem. But if one is rich in his heart, then he is destined to hell even if he is poor materially.
The Bible Says That Heaven Belongs to Those Who Are Poor in Spirit
As such, everyone’s heart must be poor before God. Those who are poor in their hearts are able to see their souls and their true selves more accurately. They know better to examine themselves and realize their insufficiencies and sinfulness, and they also know how precious the Kingdom of God is. Knowing these things means that the heart is ready to hear the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit. That’s why Jesus said that Heaven belongs to those who are poor in their hearts.
To such worthless people like us, the Lord said, “With men it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God, but with God all things are possible!” It is to save the worthless—that is, depraved sinners—that our Lord came to this earth. It’s because we cannot save ourselves that God came to a small town in Israel called Bethlehem over 2,000 years ago. Having grown up in a town called Nazareth and when He reached 30, He was baptized in the Jordan River. Through John the Baptist, the representative of mankind, He was baptized in the exact manner of the Old Testament’s ritual, that is, the laying on of hands.
When Jesus was about to be baptized by John the Baptist, He said to him, “You shall baptize me. It is thus fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness. This is necessary to save the poor, those who have no righteousness of their own, those who are insufficient, and those who are destined to hell. It is my duty to receive baptism from you, to thus bear all the sins of all the sinners once and for all, make them sinless, and take them to Heaven. That is what I must do. So baptize me now without raising any objection!”
The baptism that Jesus received entails such a meaning. By being baptized in the Jordan River by God’s servant named John the Baptist, the last High Priest of the Old Testament and the representative of mankind, Jesus took upon all the sins of mankind. For all those who have neither any satisfaction nor any riches in their hearts, those who are inevitably doomed to hell, people like you and I, Jesus bore all their sins, died on the Cross in our place, and rose up from the dead. This was impossible with men, but Jesus, who is God, could achieve all these things. By thus laying down His own life, Jesus saved all those who were poor and insufficient in their hearts, and He has made it possible for them to enter Heaven. He has enabled them to enter the Kingdom of God, to receive everlasting life, and to become God’s own children. It is because of Him that we were able to become righteous. And we were also saved from ourselves, from our own arrogant hearts. Even though this is impossible with man, God has achieved it all, and He has done it to perfection.
When did we ever think about the Kingdom of God? Did everlasting life ever cross our minds? All that we ever thought of was about our immediate needs and gratification. Did we really take any interest in who God really is, what kind of kingdom His is, and what we must do to enter that Kingdom? We may have thought about traveling or immigrating to another country, but we did not think about entering the Kingdom of God to live there forever. However, when we recognized that we were in fact destitute, we found grace from God and came to have the hope of His Kingdom.
Our Lord Himself took upon all our sins by being baptized. How did He bear our sins? He bore them all at once through the baptism given by John the Baptist. He shouldered them all by the most fitting method, the most appropriate way, and the most Biblically sound way, just as the people of Israel in the Old Testament had passed all their sins over by laying their hands on their sacrificial lambs. He had to come to this earth to save us like this, and He has indeed saved us all perfectly. It’s because of His grace that we are now able to enter the Kingdom of God and receive everlasting life. Moreover, we have also become righteous, and we have been saved from destruction. We are no longer children of the earth and darkness, but we have now become God’s own children. Just as the Bible says, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), Jesus has indeed delivered us from the oppression of the power of darkness.
Because we are poor and we know our insufficiencies, we can see what He has done for us. We were all completely worthless, destined to destruction. Yet the Lord first came looking for such people just like us. And He solved our problem of sin to perfection. Though this is impossible with man, but with God, everything is possible. God has saved us perfectly like this. He has done everything for us. Do you believe in this, my fellow believers? You must indeed believe it all.
If Jesus had not been baptized and crucified to death when He came to this earth, would we be able to enter the Kingdom of God? Our Lord has saved us by coming to this earth, being baptized, and then shedding His blood on the Cross. It’s because we believe in this that we have received everlasting life. It is by believing in what Jesus has done for our salvation, and that we have received eternal life and have become God’s children, just as the Bible says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life” (John 3:36), and, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). It is absolutely not by our own righteousness or merits that our salvation was achieved.
Why Must We Believe in the Gospel of the Water and the Spirit Which Was Given by the Lord?
If we were rich, would we need to believe in the Lord? No. Quite the contrary, it’s because we are not rich that we believe in the Lord. Even though we are lacking, we look towards and trust in Jesus Christ who has made us perfect. Because we are poor, we believe in Jesus to attain the righteousness of God. If we had enough merits to solve the problem of our sin on our own, then there would have been no need for Jesus to come to this earth and suffer so much to save us. The Lord came to this earth precisely because none of us had any merit at all, and because we could not solve the problem of sin on our own. And by believing in this fact that God saved us, we are now able to enter the Kingdom of God. If you are too full of yourself, you cannot believe in Jesus. We have come to believe in Jesus because we are worthless and poor. Herein lies the very reason why everyone must believe in Jesus. Because we have no merit, we know just how precious the Kingdom of God is, and we believe in Jesus because we want to go to this Kingdom rather than hell, because we want to enter it, receive eternal life, and inherit this Kingdom.
However, those who are meritorious on their own do not believe in Jesus’ gospel of the water and the Spirit. Given how self-satisfied and self-complacent they are, would they even see the sacrifice that Jesus made for them? In contrast, those who lack their own wisdom and whose hearts are poor thank the Lord at the first instance. It’s like a starving beggar being grateful for even cold, leftover food and eating it in gratitude. If the beggar gratefully accepted the leftovers that you offered to him, you would like to give him even more and perhaps even set aside some hot meals.
But imagine this beggar throwing the food right back at you and told you to give it to a dog instead. Would you feel like giving him any more food? No, you would want to take back what you offered him and drive him away never to see him again.
Before God, our hearts must be as humble as that of a beggar. As filthy and stinking beggars, we should recognize that we don’t deserve hot meals, and we should be begging God to give us anything to eat, even if it were cold leftover food. And if He shows us His mercy, then we should accept it in gratitude. Where would we go if the Law of God were applied to us? All of us would inevitably be doomed to hell. Yet despite this, Jesus saved us by coming to this earth, being baptized and dying on the Cross. Are we then in any position to be so picky about what’s offered to us, complaining about the food being too cold or not to our liking? Given the fact that Jesus took away all our sins, can we dare to say that He took away only our original sin or only our past sins? If despite claiming to have received the remission of sins, you say that Jesus did not take away your future sins, and therefore you have to be remitted from them by offering your prayers of repentance, then this too will lead you to hell. You will go to hell because even though Jesus said clearly that He fulfilled all your salvation and took away all your sins, you don’t believe in this Word and try to add your own righteousness to it.
If Jesus took away just your original sin and not your personal sins or future sins, then He would have had to come back to this earth again and again, accept your sins through His baptism again, and endure the suffering of the Cross time after time, just as Hebrews 9:26 says, “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world.” The Lord created the heavens and the earth and all their hosts in six days. And He rested on the seventh day. Like this, Heaven is a resting place. It’s the most wonderful place filled with poetry, music, angels, and everything that is good; a place where we can all rest in peace. Our Lord made this universe and all things in it in six days, and He rested on the seventh day. But would Jesus be able to rest if we were to offer our prayers of repentance every time we commit sin?
When Jesus came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man, He took upon all the sins of mankind by being baptized in the Jordan River. And to pay off the wages of these sins, He died on the Cross; and rising from the dead in three days He became our true Savior. After His resurrection, while He was still on this earth, He bore witness of the Kingdom of God, gave peace to His remaining disciples, and then ascended to the right hand of the throne of God the Father. He is now resting in Heaven like this because He has achieved everything.
Those who are poor in their hearts believe in what Jesus Christ has done for them and in His every Word. In contrast, those who are rich in their hearts do not believe. That is why the Bible says that it is more difficult for those with a rich heart to enter Heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The rich can never go there. Which kingdom is beyond the reach of the wealthy? It’s the Kingdom of God. Which kingdom is reserved for the poor? It is God’s Kingdom.
One of the hymns that our kids at the Sunday school sing goes something like this, “You can’t enter God’s Kingdom with money; you can’t enter God’s Kingdom by power. You can enter it only if you are born again. The Kingdom of God is entered by faith.” Our saints in Korea would be quite familiar with this children’s praise. Was this praise composed just for the kids at Sunday school to sing and dance? No, it’s a confession made by all the people of faith. It’s a confession given by God. As the lyrics in this praise say, Heaven can be entered neither with money nor by power. It’s a kingdom that can be entered only by those who have been born again of the water, blood and the Spirit.
As We Became Poor in Our Hearts, We Were Saved from All Our Sins
There are so many people in this world professing to believe in Jesus, but how many of them really believe that Jesus is their Savior? How many of them have really received the perfect remission of sins? Countless Christians believe that they have just been remitted from their original sin, and that their personal sins are remitted away by offering many daily prayers of repentance. Arguing that Jesus could not have taken away their sins that they have not even committed yet, and say, “Jesus took away all my past sins, but as far as my present and future sins are concerned, I have to offer prayers of repentance every time I sin. So my salvation is an on-going process. I have been saved, I am being saved, and I will be saved.” Does this make any sense? Only someone mentally ill would say such things. Such things are said by those who are confused. It’s like saying, “I’ve come to church, I’m coming to church, and I’ll come to church.” They might as well say, “I’ve eaten breakfast, I’m eating breakfast, and I’ll eat breakfast.” So does this make any sense at all? Such people are suffering from anorexia; less than 3 seconds after having lunch and clearing out the table, they say, “Honey, where is my meal?”
All Christians profess to believe in Jesus. You and I also believe in Jesus, but the difference here is many Christians are rich in their hearts. They keep trying to attain everlasting life through their own acts. But it’s all useless. Does God give us eternal life and send us to Heaven only if we do something on our own?
No, our own righteousness is in fact completely useless to God, for Job 35:7-8 says, “If you are righteous, what do you give Him?
Or what does He receive from your hand?
Your wickedness affects a man such as you,
And your righteousness a son of man.”
This means that even if you do good deeds, it only benefits other people, while it brings no benefit to God. Are you then still trying to obtain everlasting life by keeping all the Law? Will you still say arrogantly, “I have never murdered anyone, nor have I ever committed adultery”? Have you then never harbored any hatred in your heart, nor lusted after anyone of the opposite sex you saw in the streets? God said that He looks at your heart, not your acts. Yet despite this, if you still proudly claim to have kept the Law, then this means that your heart is still rich. Our Lord abhors those who are rich in their hearts. There is no one in Heaven whose heart is rich. Far from it, there only are those who are poor in their hearts, and who therefore believe completely in the water and blood of Jesus Christ.
God has made it possible for us to enter Heaven. We could never have done this on our own, but our Lord has achieved it for us. Even though we were filthy sinners, He came looking for us, saved us, and gave the Word of salvation so that we would receive the remission of our sins by faith.
We are not better than anyone else. If there is one difference, it is just that we have recognized God as our God, and we have admitted ourselves as sinners before His Word. We have neither any merit, nor any righteousness, nor any nobleness, nor any wealth at all. All that we have done is that we acknowledged the Word of God, accepted it into our hearts, and believed in everything that the Lord did on this earth for our salvation. We have done nothing else but believe.
Yet despite this, despite our lack of merit and our insufficiencies, the Lord has saved us all. He has saved us 100 percent by His grace, expecting nothing in return. It is like this because our hearts are poor and devoid of any merit that we have been saved. I ask you to ruminate and meditate on this point one more time, and to give all your thanks to God for such a wonderful blessing.