Coming to Life: Thoughts
The Bible is truly alive. The passages and words within it age and mature. They demand to be revisited and reread, and to neglect this demand is to grossly underestimate the Bible’s value.
I say all that to say this: Thank God I’ve reread the Bible, because if I read Mark 10:23 and called it a day, I’d walk through life fully convinced that I was headed for hell. (For context, I first read that verse when I was about 14 years old.)
I grew up knowing that I wasn’t rich, per se, but I certainly knew I wasn’t not rich. I was rich enough for this verse to scare me. But that’s just it, isn’t it? My first impression of that passage fully missed the point that Jesus was trying to convey. I’m confident in saying that the first time I read the Bible cover to cover, I missed somewhere between 60 and 70 percent of the nuances with which it was written. I could be 85-years-old reading through it for the twentieth time and still miss so much. Though, as the passages and words age and mature, they fail to die.
God’s Word has such a nasty habit of maintaining trustworthiness when I don’t want it to. I’ll be floating through at a really comfortable place in life, and I’ll even think the dreaded Enneagram 4 thought, “You know what? I’m doing OK!” And it will start to make sense to be self-reliant. Because who needs God when your life looks so fabulous? But then, as seasons do, the summer ends, and the leaves begin to fall, and something happens that pulls the thread on my self-reliance, and I’m back in a downward spiral, like clockwork. “This happens every time!” I think, frustrated. Reader: When I close the Bible and live my life according to my own will, when things start crumbling and the walls of my life cave in, my first reaction is always to blame God, and it’s never God’s fault.
This is where the beauty of this passage in Mark really starts to shine through! When Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God,” one’s first, visceral reaction is to accuse God of discrimination against the wealthy. But the beauty, the nuance of Jesus’ words reveal a much deeper meaning, as they so often do. Being rich is not just having the means to get your heart’s desires; being rich is a state of mind. When I close my Bible and start thinking that I’ve got life under my thumb, I’m thinking like a rich man. But, when I save up and I pull a bit of cash from each paycheck to surprise my wife with a dinner at Prato, I stop thinking like a rich man. Jesus is using words that my earthly thinking hears as one thing, but he graciously invites me into holy thinking—and it is only then that I can recognize this subtlety.
This passage really holds some tremendous weight when you view it through this lens. Jesus is instigating my entire life. He’s literally calling out the human condition! He’s suggesting that the way we think will expel us from the kingdom of God, and he is absolutely right. This passage is so uncomfortable to read with an earthly mentality, and it is all the more gracious of him to allow us to read it with a holy mentality. He knows that I get scared when I read this passage. He also knows that, when equipped with holy thinking, I don’t need to be scared at all. He’s offering me a tool that lets me read his Word the way it’s intended to be read.
Jesus doesn’t communicate in some archaic way to repel us from his message; instead, it’s as if he speaks in cryptograms, and holy thinking is the only way to crack the code. The Bible bursts open in a new way when I discover this, and Jesus knows it. The pressure gets taken off, the message becomes clear, and his Word is revealed for what it truly is: the answer to our problems. It’s OK to not understand the Bible at first glance; I don’t think anybody has. But, I think you owe it to yourself to look at it with a mindset of holy thinking. It’s quite a beautiful code to crack.