The Little Children and the Rich Young Man
( Originally Published 1915 )
WHILE JESUS was still passing through the land of Perea, on his way to Jerusalem, at one place the fathers and mothers brought their babies to him, asking him to place his hands on their heads and speak upon them a blessing. When the disciples saw them doing this, they were not pleased.
"Take these babies away!" they said. "The Lord is too busy with greater things to attend to them!"
But Jesus heard them, and he was displeased, not with the parents and their children, but with his disciples.
"Let the little ones come to me," he said, "and do not stop them; for the kingdom of God comes only to those who are child-like. I tell you, whoever will not give himself up to the kingdom of God as a little child shall never come into the kingdom."
Then he took the little ones up into his arms, laid his hands upon them and gave them his blessing. After that he went away from that place.
Soon afterward a young man who was one of the leaders in the church of his town came running, and bowed low before Jesus. "Good Teacher," said the young man, "tell me what to do if I am to be saved and have life everlasting."
"Why do you call me `good'?" answered Jesus. "There is only one who is really good; that is God. To be saved, you have only to do God's will. You know what his commandments are; keep them."
"Why, what commands do you mean?" asked the young man. He supposed that Jesus, like many of the scribes, who were the teachers of God's law, had given some special rules of his own.
Jesus said to him, "I mean the ten commandments of God, such as, `Thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not say what is false; honor thy father and thy mother,' and so on."
The young man said, "Teacher, all these I have kept ever since I was a child. What more do I need?"
As Jesus looked at this young man, so eager in his wish to please God, he loved him, and felt a special longing to have him among his disciples.
"If you really wish to be perfect," he said to the young man, "you do need one thing more. Sell everything that you have, and give all the money to the poor, and you will have your treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, and be one of my disciples."
When the young man heard those words, he felt greatly disappointed, and turned away, unwilling to do what Jesus asked, for he was very rich, and he loved his money. After he had left them, Jesus turned to his disciples:
"How hard it is," said Jesus "for a rich man to come into the kingdom of God!"
As the disciples heard this, they were greatly surprised, for all the Jews thought that to have riches was a sign of God's special favor. As they stood silent, not knowing how to answer these words, Jesus said again:
"Children, how hard it is for those who trust in their riches to enter into the kingdom of God ! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God!"
They were amazed at this, and said, "Then who can be saved?"
"What is impossible with men," answered Jesus, "is possible with God."
"But we," said Simon Peter, "have left everything, and have followed you. What shall we have in the kingdom for all this?"
Peter thought, as did all the crowds who were going up to Jerusalem with Jesus, that there he would set up his kingdom and give rich rewards to his disciples.
"In truth I say to you," answered Jesus, "that you who have followed me, in the new kingdom when the Son of Man shall sit upon his throne, you twelve men, my disciples, shall sit upon twelve thrones, ruling over the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one who has left home, or wife, or children, or parents, or brothers, or sisters on my account, and for the sake of God's kingdom, shall receive in this life a hundred times as much as he has lost, and in the world to come, life everlasting. But many that are first in this world shall be last in the kingdom; and some that are the lowest here will be the highest there."