from WL Worcester (H Blackmer, ed.), 
The Sower.  Helps to the Study of the Bible in Home and Sunday School
(Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, n.d.)

Table of Contents


Lesson 21

Mark 10:17-31: The Rich Young Man

The Story


The Lord took the little children in His arms and blessed them, as He was journeying with the disciples from Galilee toward Judea, through the country east of Jordan. Today we still follow them on the journey.

As they were walking, a young man, a ruler, came running to Him and kneeling asked Him what he should do that he might have part in the kingdom of heaven. The Lord reminded him of the Ten Commandments, and he said he had always kept them. Then it is said that the Lord looked upon him and loved him. He saw a young man who had sincerely tried to do what was right, a young man rich and honored by others, well satisfied with himself, and happy in his power and riches, probably thinking that but little would be necessary to make him worthy of a place in heaven. But when the Lord told him to sell all that he had and give to the poor, that then he would have treasure in heaven, and that then also he would be worthy to follow Him in His life of humble service, the young man realized how much more dear to him were the things of this world than the things of heaven, "and he went away grieved." And the Lord said how hard it is for those that have riches and trust in them to enter into the kingdom of heaven. If we trust in our riches or anything of this world, we find it impossible humbly to trust in the Lord, and then, as the Lord says, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for us to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Then Peter told of all that the disciples had left to follow the Lord, and He said that no one should give up any earthly thing for His sake who would not receive things a hundred-fold more precious in the heavenly life. "But," He said, "many that are first shall be last; and the last first."


At the time of the Gospel story the northern part of Canaan where Nazareth and Capernaum are was called Galilee, and the southern part where Jerusalem is was called Judea. The district between was Samaria. People often journeyed back and forth between Galilee and Judea, going to the Passover and the other feasts, and coming home again. You know how Mary and Joseph and others from Nazareth went every year to the Passover, and how the Lord went with them, when He was twelve years old. There were two ways by which people traveled back and forth. One went through the whole country of Samaria; the other went down to the Jordan and through the country on the eastern side of the river. The Lord was taking the way through Samaria when He rested on Jacob's well and talked with the woman. (John 4:3, 4) Now He was going from Capernaum to Judea, and took the way through the country east of Jordan. It was a pleasant country with many streams and fine woods, and many towns where the people were glad to welcome the Lord. As they journeyed along the foot paths from town to town, the Lord taught the disciples and the many people who gathered to hear Him. All this comes to mind as we read the first verse of chapter 10.

We have already looked forward to one incident of this journey, the Lord's blessing the little children.

And now a young man ran to meet Him, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Lord spoke of the Commandments; the young man believed that he had kept them. With his riches and his power as a ruler the young man had grown to think that he was strong and could be good without any help. But that is not true. No one can be good except with the Lord's help, and if we forget this and trust ourselves we are sure to fail. It is better to learn the lesson and ask the Lord to help us, before our self-confidence brings us into trouble, as it surely will. That feeling of being strong and good of ourselves is the opposite of being poor in spirit. It was that feeling that the young man needed to get rid of with his riches, before he could be ready for heaven.

Do you think a person may be rich in money and other things, and at the same time be poor in spirit? Yes, if he is not proud of his riches, but asks the Lord to help him make good use of them. And might another person, perhaps with less money, have that feeling that he is all right and in need of nothing, which cannot come into heaven? Yes, and the Lord says it is easier for a great camel to go through the little eye of a needle than for such a one to come into heaven. Both those who are rich and those who are poor in worldly things, may go to heaven, but all must be poor in spirit who go there.

The disciples did not at first understand that a humble spirit is the poorness that is needed. Peter said, "Lo, we have left all, and have followed Thee." We remember how some had left their boats and nets, and one had left the office where he took customs, and others had left their homes. If they did this because they loved the Lord and trusted Him, it helped to prepare them for heaven, but not otherwise. What a new way this was of judging of things from what the disciples or anyone in the world had known! Many things that they thought were most important, the Lord said were not important at all, and the humble spirit which they had thought nothing about, the Lord said was the really important thing.

1. "He arose from thence" (verse 1): where was the Lord? What other way to Judea might He have taken?

2. How did the Lord show His love for little children? Does He love little children now as much as those who came to Him in the world?

3. What had the young man done that was right? What did he still need to do to be ready for heaven?

4. May rich people go to heaven? May poor people go? In what way must every one be poor to go there?

Spiritual Study


Read carefully verses 1-12. They are a lesson about marriage. They teach that it is very holy. The best of all blessings come in marriage when it is kept sacred, and the worst of sadness and misery come from its abuse. We ought never to speak carelessly about marriage or in any way make joke of it. We should keep our minds pure and feel that we are preparing for a blessed marriage in this world or in heaven. There is also a marriage of goodness and truth in our own souls, and of our souls with the Lord; and these deeper things also are cared for by the Lord, as with His help we keep all things connected with natural marriage sacred. (E. 710, 981, 982, and on.)

Read again verses 13-16, and remind me of their deeper lesson.

The first duty pointed out to the young man is to keep the Commandments. See Psalm 119:9. But something more is needed. The doing good is not deep and genuine and trustworthy until we learn to walk humbly with the Lord, trusting His strength and not our own. Find the same lesson in Micah 6:8. Do other young men, and young women too, need to learn this lesson, who run forth into the way of life confident in their own knowledge and strength? (Life 66; E. 934)

What is the meaning of the Lord's words about riches and heaven? May people who are rich in this world go to heaven? (H. 357-365) Will all who are poor go to heaven? Do angels have rich and beautiful things? (H. 185; T. 740) What is it connected with riches, which cannot come into heaven, nor exist among the angels? There are also riches of knowledge and goodness. Do they unfit us for heaven? Does trust in our own knowledge and goodness? "How hard it is for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!" The self-trustful, the opposite of the poor in spirit, are the rich who cannot enter heaven.

The Lord's words seem to imply that in some sense by His power, the camel can go through the needle's eye. The camel, which is associated with the desert and John the Baptist, stands for such strength, especially such strength of understanding, as the young man had, external and self-confident. The needle's eye stands for the fine interior perception of a spiritual state. The Lord will bring us from the natural into the spiritual state, if we are faithful - something which we cannot possibly do for ourselves. (H. 365; A. 3048)

The household that must be left are the selfish, evil thoughts and feelings that are natural to us. The new household are the new heavenly thoughts and feelings which the Lord will give "now in this time," and more abundantly in heaven. (Matthew 10:34-38; E. 724)

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