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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, September 17, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).

Much confusion has arisen across the centuries concerning the Rich Young Ruler, spoken of in Mark 10:17-22. Monasticism began early in the third century. Anthony (c. 251-356 AD) was the founder of monasticism in Egypt. At the age of twenty he sold his possessions, gave all his money to the poor, and moved into a cave, to lead a solitary life of meditation and prayer. Others followed his example and moved into surrounding caverns. Monasticism flourished in Egypt in the time of Anthony.

These monastics taught salvation by voluntary poverty. One of their favorite proof texts was the account of the Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30). It was one of these monastics who removed the words “for them that trust in riches” from our text, making it read,

“How hard it is to enter the kingdom of God” (NIV).

Unfortunately Westcott and Hort followed the Vaticanus manuscript produced by the monastic monks in Egypt, thus leading to the removal of the important phrase “for them that trust in riches” from all the modern translations including the New King James, because the new translations rely on the Nestle-Aland text, which is based mostly on the Vaticanus codex, produced by the monastics of Egypt in the third century. Thus, the monastic view of the Rich Young Ruler comes over in the modern translations, and we once again must reiterate the King James Bible is the only reliable translation, because it is based on the Textus Receptus Greek text, rather than the one done by the monastics in Egypt.

You see, if you leave out the phrase, “for them that trust in riches,” it makes the text lend itself to the voluntary poverty and monasticism of the early Catholic Church. This false Catholic interpretation has haunted even the Protestants ever since. That can be seen in the early lives of Whitefield and Wesley. They tried to be saved through voluntary poverty. Earlier you can see it in the monastic life of Martin Luther.

Even today, many evangelicals have in the back of their minds that it is sinful to make money. They do it anyway, but their consciences falsely accuse them, because at the back of their minds is this Catholic monastic interpretation that they must do what Jesus required of the Rich Young Ruler to be good Christians. R. C. H. Lenski has an excellent, thorough argument for keeping “them that trust in riches” in The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 reprint, pages 440-441.

Or, they may be led by the Egyptian text, from which come the modern translations, to think that Christianity is slanted against hard work, and getting ahead by earning honest money. These ideas are quite prevalent due to a misunderstanding which has arisen by the modern translations omitting those words, “for them that trust in riches.”

To clear up this matter, let us look to the Bible itself. Old Moody once said, “The best commentary on the Bible is the Bible itself.” I agree with him on that. By looking at other passages in Scripture we learn (1) what this passage referring to the Rich Young Ruler does not mean; and (2) what it does mean.

I. First, what the passage does not mean.

Look at verse 21. Jesus said,

“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).

The monastics taught that this showed it is necessary for everyone to give up all their money to be saved. But the Bible itself proves the monastic interpretation is wrong. This is not a universal command, necessary for anyone who wishes to be saved. It applied specifically to the Rich Young Ruler, but it does not teach that voluntary poverty is necessary for salvation in every case. How could it teach that?

Please turn to the third chapter of John, verse one.

“There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1).

“A ruler of the Jews” meant that he was a member of the Jewish high court, called the Sanhedrin, the main ruling body of the Jews. The Sanhedrin was composed of the high priest, chief priests, elders and scribes, for a total of 71 men. They were the supreme court in Jesus’ time. These were not poor men. They had a good position in life. Yet Jesus did not tell Nicodemus he had to give up his house and possessions. He spoke very pointedly to Nicodemus, but he never told him that he had to give away all that he had to be saved. Jesus simply said to him what we read in John 3:7. Please look at that verse. Jesus said to him,

“Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again”
      (John 3:7).

Jesus did not say one word about giving up all his possessions. He was simply told, “Ye must be born again.” Nicodemus later came to believe in Jesus (John 7:50-52). Later, after Jesus was crucified, Nicodemus risked his life and reputation to help give Jesus a decent burial (John 19:39-40). This man became a Christian, born again, without having to give up his earthly possessions.

Next, look at Joseph of Arimathaea. Please turn to Matthew 27:57. Here we are told that Joseph of Arimathaea was rich. Please stand and read this verse aloud,

“When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple” (Matthew 27:57).

You may be seated.

We are specifically told that Joseph of Arimathaea was “a rich man.” We are also told that he had already become a disciple of Jesus. It is quite clear that he became a Christian without giving up his riches. He was rich, but he had become Jesus’ disciple without giving up his riches! What could be clearer?

“But,” you may say, “What about Zacchaeus?” His case is most interesting. It should be noted that Jesus did not ask him to give away his money. It seems from the text in Luke 19:8, that he was saved before he gave his money, for he called Jesus “Lord” and then gave money to the poor. Even at that, he did not give away all his money. He gave half to the poor and made a fourfold restitution for the taxes he had collected wrongly. Commentator Lenski pointed out that

Jesus made no demand upon him to give any of his wealth away. No special call was extended to Zacchaeus to leave his home to preach the gospel. He was not even told to drop his business as a publican (tax collector)…if he continued in business he conducted his work in a clean way (R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Augsburg Publishing House, 1961 reprint, p. 943).

Now turn to Luke 10:38. Please read it out loud,

“Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house” (Luke 10:38).

Was she required to give up her house to be a Christian? No. Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus continued to live in their house. About a year later we are told that they still had the house. Look at John 11:20, the end of the verse, “Mary sat still in the house,” while Martha went to greet Jesus. We are told about their house again in verse 31, “The Jews then which were with her in the house…” It is also important to remember that Matthew still owned a house and had money enough to pay for a great feast after he followed Christ (Luke 5:27-29). Peter left his fishing nets to follow Christ (Mark 1:16), but he still owned a house (Mark 1:29-31; Mark 2:1). Joanna was the wife of Herod’s financial manager. She supported Jesus out of her “substance” (Luke 8:3). In the Book of Acts Priscilla and Aquila owned a big house, and Paul said,

“Likewise greet the church that is in their house” (Romans 16:5).

And we could go on to show many other examples in the New Testament which show that giving up all one’s possessions is not required to gain salvation. But note again our text,

“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).

II. Second, what the passage does mean.

It means that the Rich Young Ruler was trusting his wealth, and would not transfer his trust to Christ. That is why his story is given in all three of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). The purpose of giving his story three times is to show that we must not trust money, but Christ. Psalm 52 says,

“Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches…” (Psalm 52:7).

What does it mean to trust in riches? The meaning is given in Psalm 62,

“If riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm 62:10).

And, I believe, that is what the Rich Young Ruler did. He “set his heart upon” his riches and, so, he would not “set his heart upon” Christ. This is made clear in our text,

“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).

It is interesting to notice that most people are converted when they are young. Every statistic I have read shows that. I believe a main reason for this is because young people are not yet caught up in the material things of this world. As they grow older it becomes less likely that they will be converted because they

“…are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life…” (Luke 8:14).

They are “choked” by the worries of life, and thoughts about money and pleasure. That’s why it’s important to come to Christ now – before the worries of life and thoughts about money “choke” the gospel in your heart and keep you from coming to Christ.

“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).

No, you probably do not have to give away all your money to be a Christian. That was only one special case in the New Testament, the case of this Rich Young Ruler, because he was so thoroughly caught up in thoughts of money. The more money a person makes, as he goes through life, the less likely it is that he will be converted. Let us read one final passage on this subject, I Timothy 6:17. Let us stand and read it aloud.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (I Timothy 6:17).

You may be seated. This verse, once again, stresses the fact that those who have money must not trust in it. It does not say that all rich people must give up their money. It simply says they must not “trust in uncertain riches.” It is not wrong to make money, but it is wrong to trust in it!

Come to Christ. Trust in Him alone. He died on the Cross to pay for your sins. He is alive at the right hand of God in Heaven. Let nothing keep you from Christ. God in Christ is the only object in the world worth trusting! Amen.

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Mark 10:21-27.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Only Jesus Can Satisfy Your Soul.”



by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“How hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).

(Mark 10:17-22; Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30)

I.   What the passage does not mean, Mark 10:21; John 3:1, 7;
John 7:50-52; 19:39-40; Matthew 27:57; Luke 19:8;
Luke 10:38; John 11:20, 31; Luke 5:27-29; Mark 1:16;
Mark 1:29-31; 2:1; Luke 8:3; Romans 16:5.

II.  What the passage does mean, Psalm 52:7; Psalm 62:10;
Luke 8:14; I Timothy 6:17.