Thursday, January 22, 2015
January 21 – 2 extremes in 1 statement
“I assure you,” Jesus said, “there is no one who has left house, brothers or sisters, mother or father, children, or fields because of Me and the gospel, who will not receive 100 times more, now at this time—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and eternal life in the age to come. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (Mark 10:29-31 HCSB)
If Jesus had been sent to earth during our lifetime, just this message in Mark 10 alone would have labeled Him as a cult leader by most respectable Christian leaders today. Encouraging people to sacrifice all they have materially, including children and parents, is considered irresponsible and unchristian.
But here is Jesus praising painful sacrifice, and ending it with an unbelievable promise – you will have 100 times more, and not just in heaven, but right here on earth. Two extremes in one quick statement. Not quite enough time to wrap your head around the huge implications of both.
When people take offence at giving offerings and tithes, the thought of surrendering livelihoods and family is just too much. This is often the point where people who say they love our church start to drift away. Jesus never demands the sacrifice of every one of these things from every single believer, but He does demand a heart that is willing to sacrifice anything at any time He may require it.
The big misunderstanding that usually occurs with this passage, is the fear that pleasing God means becoming poor and homeless and lonely. Throughout church history, monks and nuns denied themselves, taking vows of chastity and poverty, flogged themselves and slept on freezing stone floors in dismal monasteries to attain greater holiness. This is just one example of harmful religious fanaticism. Whenever God requires a sacrifice of us, there is always a purpose. It’s never to buy our blessing or make ourselves worthy of holiness, but to further the Kingdom of God, and in the process, purge our hearts of any traces of greed or selfishness.
The promise of Jesus never says that it’s His will for us to live in suffering and need for the rest of our lives. He wants us to just let go of our fears and controlling spirits. When we have a lot and are happy to give as His Spirit leads us, we honor God. When we give to His work and to others around us in need, our giving hearts shine for Him, and He’ll give us more than what we’re able to give out. 100 times more, and not just in heaven but right here – that’s the promise.
If Jesus ended with the statement that many who are first will be last, and the last first, it shows how many who seem to be prosperous and ahead of the game, will end up being last in God’s eyes, because they never learn to sacrifice. But those who choose to let go of position and the respect of others, their wealth and their possessions for Him, God Himself will give them the honor of being the first.