In August 2017, in his final world competition, Usain Bolt, the Jamaican 100 m world-record holder was favored to win in the IAAF World Championships in London. Bolt had not lost a final of any race for four years, but this race would not provide a cherry on top of the sprinter’s incredible career. Instead, Bolt was defeated in the finals by longtime rival Justin Gatlin. The great king of the 100 m dash was knocked down a few notches, finishing third.
Sometimes those expected to finish in first place do not make the mark. As it relates to eternal life, Jesus affirms that many who assume they have lived a good life and acquired the righteousness needed to guarantee salvation, in fact have missed the mark.
The rich man who inquired of Jesus about inheriting eternal life felt certain that he had salvation in hand. From the start, however, his assumption about himself proved as faulty as his words of flattery. Notice that he recognized Jesus only as a “good teacher” and not as God (v. 17). He felt he never had broken the Law, but on the contrary, his heart was controlled by greed. Rather than gaining eternal life, he would go away “last,” because he refused to follow Jesus (v. 22). By contrast, the disciples, who had sacrificed all to follow Jesus and who were probably considered “last” with respect to wealth and accomplishment, would secure a place in the kingdom, gaining rewards for their sacrifice and most importantly, eternal life.
Many have given their lives for the Lord’s service. Some have moved into the mission field, far from their families. Others have made second-career moves that significantly reduce their income and standard of living; they go without many of life’s comforts. Their sacrifices are not in vain. They are winning the race of eternity (vv. 30–31).
The disciples might have been amazed to realize that gaining wealth does not guarantee heaven’s approval (v. 26). Equating riches with the blessing of God is prevalent even today. In contrast, Jesus commends decreasing our portfolio for the great purpose of His kingdom. Think of how you can decrease yours in order to advance the gospel.