A Good Investment
Mark 10:28-31, "And Jesus answered and said, I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, and children, and lands, for my sake and the gospel's, 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. But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
First, let us learn the meaning of the last verse of the passage. This same phrase is found in Matthew 20:16 and Luke 13:30.
In Matthew it teaches that those who enter the service of God late in life can also receive the reward from the Father. This is not taught to encourage procrastination and postponement of obedience. No one should want to serve the devil one hour longer than he can abandon him. It is designed to give hope to people of every age in life.
In Luke we learn that Gentiles, as well as Jews, indeed, people of every race and nation, regardless of when the truth was first opened unto them, can equally benefit from God's blessings.
The phrase seems to climax yet another thought in Mark. The background of the passage is helpful in coming to its understanding.
The apostles had witnessed a discussion between Jesus and the rich man. They had heard Jesus’ teaching and giving warning against placing trust in that which perishes with the using. They make application of His teaching to themselves. In this they show great wisdom. Too many are anxious to apply gospel truth to somebody else rather than themselves. But the gospel is to the individual and should be so applied.
Peter speaks, “Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.” Matthew's parallel account of this teaching adds that Peter asked, “What shall we have therefore?”This may at first appear to have been a self-righteous and boastful statement by comparing themselves with the young man who went away sorrowful from Jesus because he obviously loved his wealth more than the Lord. But we rather think Peter was simply speaking the truth and that he and the others were prompted by some concern over what their sacrifice would bring them In return. When people make Investments they generally want to have some idea what to expect from them.
The context of the answer Jesus gave implies that they either were considering what forsaking all else would profit, or they had already left all and now were wondering If they had made the right decision. “Lord, we have left all, what will be the end of us? What can we expect from all of this? Have we made a good investment or not?”
We Must Choose
Peter's statement brings to the surface a powerful truth. Man must make choice if he is to follow the Christ. We may forsake all and follow Christ, or we may refuse to forsake all and decline to follow Him. But if we follow Him, we must forsake all. Not until we forsake all can we completely serve Him. Where the following goes, the forsaking must go. They are inseparable. It is strange, in light of this teaching, that people can conceive in their minds that they can follow Christ, who gave His all, even Himself, and still remain unwilling to forsake all else to serve Him.
We must understand in what sense the apostles forsook all and how we are to forsake all else. In many ways the early disciples did not forsake all, yet, they said they had forsaken all and Christ did not refute or deny their affirmation. Evidently they had forsaken all to the degree and manner that the Lord expects.
We are not to take the words in an absolute sense because that would bring upon us total chaos, confusion, poverty, and self-imposed death. It would demand we leave off food, shelter, clothing, and all associations with all people, civilization, even the necessities of life. The Lord knows we have need of these things and has promised to provide them. Surely, this is not the forsaking that is under consideration.
There is no reason to think the early disciples forsook all family connections or got rid of all their possessions. In fact, we know they did not. Christ does not demand opposites; that is, He does not call for a person to abandon his family when faithfulness does not demand it. This would violate his duties as a father and provider of his own. Neither does He demand leaving all possessions because He teaches us to be good stewards of what we have. To abandon everything would make us dependent on the unbelieving world for our daily bread, rather than working, as God would have us work.
What To Leave
But there are some things that must be abandoned. Paul had to leave So many things in order to be what he was. He had power, fame, wealth, prestige, glory, influence, even above those his own age among the Jews. But he said, “Yea, doubtless I count all things but loss for the excellency of the know/edge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the /OSS of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.” (Philippians 3:8).
Peter forsook all, but he led about a wife (Second Corinthians 9: 5) .He also remained in the association with his fleshly brother, Andrew.
Are we to think that John forsook Mary after Jesus gave him charge to care for her. John also remained in the company of James until James was dead.
John Mark's mother owned a house (Acts 12:12), and Philip had a family with him (Acts 21:8). Yet, it is written that they all must forsake all, follow Jesus, and we are expected to follow their example. The truth of the matter is that they sacrificed whatever was needful to be sacrificed, regardless of how costly it was to them to do so.
We must take notice of the difference between two attitudes. One attitude might be called the "give up something" attitude; and the other is the “give up all” attitude. Many people are willing to give up something but fewer are willing to give up all, putting God first before everything. The Pharisees gave a tithe and the rich gave of their abundance. But the poor widow gave of all her living, all she had. Some are willing to give up to a point, but are not willing to always put the interest of the Lord first. The giving up all spirit is like being that “living sacrifice” of which Paul writes in Romans 12:1,2. A sacrifice is that which is wholly given; regardless of what it takes, even everything, if necessary. But it is not necessary to literally and absolutely give up everything in order to follow Christ and for it to be justly said we have forsaken all. Notice what Jesus mentions as being given up; house, land, children, wife, brothers, sisters, parents. What in the affairs of our daily lives is nearer and dearer to anyone than these? Can anyone put a price on their own kin, his home, and his own flesh and blood? Certainly not. But the insistence of the theme is that even these things must be given pp, if necessary to follow Christ. There is no limit to what can and must be sacrificed in order to serve God and be saved. It demands giving up anything, everything, if necessary.
It was not uncommon then, or now, for people to be forced to sever even the closest ties in life to serve God faithfully. But it is clear that Jesus is not speaking literally because the rewards he mentions show that there shall be adequate compensation for whatever is giving up. But we know we cannot have other mothers and fathers, even if we could acquire other lands, houses, children, or wives. Jesus is using that which is most precious to show how much we must be determined to put Him first. As He taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness...” (Matthew 6:33), So He is teaching essentially the same here.
Forsaking all to follow Christ is not without its reward. Far more is gained than is given up. The Lord says we shall receive a hundredfold more in gain than that which is invested. By any standard, such a return on an investment is unbelievable. In one sense, the Lord calls for sacrifice but does not let you sacrifice because you are rewarded far more than you can sacrifice.
Again, we must insist Jesus is not teaching that if we give up a house we shall receive literally a hundred houses; or if we give up a wife we shall have a hundred wives; or if we give up a mother we shall have a hundred mothers. Such a misinterpretation is ridiculous. But what can we forsake that is of equal value to the forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven? What is peace of conscience worth? What is divine support in time of trial worth? How can you put a price on standing in favor with God? These blessings are ours now as we follow Christ, and what is more, eternal life awaits us. Who can say we could give up enough to equal the value of all these?
First And Last
Now we are in a better position to see the meaning of the phrase, “The first shall be last and the last first,” as found in Mark 10:31. Ordinarily we might expect the first shall be first and the last shall be last. But those with fame, fortune, family, may be considered first in this life, but ranked last in the judgment if such things kept them from following Christ. Those who might have been considered inferior and unfortunate in this life may be the very ones who rank first with God in the judgment if they have given up such things in order to follow Christ. The way the world may rank an individual is not necessarily the way God ranks them. Those who put God first, even at the loss of being first here and now, shall be counted first with God, and that is where being first really matters.
This teaching is very persuasive and should lead us to commit ourselves to the service of God through Christ. It is not a question of how much are you willing to give up to serve God? The question is “Are you willing to put all else after God, giving Him first place in everything?” Some are not willing to give up anything. Others may be willing to give up something. But God commands that we give up all. But what a good investment it is, seeing the bountiful rewards both here and in the after life that awaits those who follow Christ! Let us so think and live that we shall sing in truth that beautiful hymn, “All To Jesus I Surrender.”