Only What You Do For Christ Will Last – A Meditation on the Gospel of the Rich and Poor

In fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel which we are reading at daily Mass this week we find the following saying of the Lord:

To the one who has, more will be given; from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. (Mk 4:25 )

The Rich get Richer? Now to one who reads such a text from a merely worldly perspective it might seem the Lord is saying in some fatalistic sense that the rich get richer and the poor just get poorer. But such a reading of this text would be incorrect since it fails to understand that the Lord Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of this world.  Indeed, the fuller context of Chapter 4 is the memorable parable about the seed of the word that falls on either on the path, on rocky ground, among the thorns, or into good soil. Not only does the Lord give this parable, but goes on to explain the parable at considerable length. So the context of this saying is not the world but the Kingdom of God.

Thus, when the Lord speaks of those who have “more” he does not mean material possessions and the wealth of this passing world. Rather, those who have more are those who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold (Mk 4:20).

Thus, the one who has more is the one who has the Kingdom of God, who has faith, who, by faith, has the Lord and the justice of the Lord, and who stands to inherit all of heaven. He or she is the one who has more.

Note too how the “more” keeps building. To have faith is to have the Lord, and to have the Lord is have saving grace and mercy. And to have saving grace and mercy is to grow in holiness and experience greater and greater healing. And to experience this transformation and share in God’s holiness is to be made ready for heaven. And to be made ready for heaven is to one day have heaven, and to be with God for ever.  Thus to have more and to accept its power is to have more and more and more, until we are spiritually rich in the kingdom. Yes, those who have the Kingdom are the ones who are rich! They may not have the fancy house, with the big car, big salary, big ego and big hair. But they are rich in the only way that really matters or lasts; they are rich in the Kingdom.

So, who are those who have not? They are those who have rejected the Kingdom of God, the Word of God, the grace and mercy of God. They “have not” the Kingdom. And they do not have it not because it hasn’t been offered but because they have rejected it.  These are the ones who are truly poor, who are destitute, who “have not.”

But notice that the text does say they do have something, for the text says, even what he has will be taken away. Now this means he or she has something, but it will not be theirs for long. For what they have is the world and its vain, passing riches. It is theirs now, but like sand slipping through their fingers, it ebbs away and will some be gone. It cannot last no matter how large the fortune is that is amassed.

Consider carefully what the Lord says here. The world’s riches cannot last. Further, they are all but nothing compared to the riches of the Kingdom of heaven. The ones who have the kingdom are those who have and will get more. The ones who have this world, by comparison, have nothing at all, and the little they do have will be taken from them.

Think of a multibillionaire, a captain of industry with numerous homes, corporate jets, luxury yachts, even private islands. He may have amassed a fortune on this planet and own more real estate than even certain governments!

But really, what he has is ultimately so little! If you were to go out into space, not even all that far, and look back you couldn’t even see the earth. Our billionaire may have amassed a fortune, but it is only a portion of a speck of space dust, for the earth is but speck of dust compared to immensity of the things God has made.

Do you get the point? We get real impressed about what is really very little in the end. And our billionaire has this wealth for only a very brief nanosecond of cosmic time. When his little moment is up, even the little he has is taken from him.

There is only one way to be truly rich and that is to receive the gift of God and his Kingdom. Only this will last. Only in coming to possess this do we really have something that amounts to anything. Only this will grow until we are rich. Only those who have the kingdom are rich in any sense of the word. All others really have what amounts to only very little, and what little they have, if it is of the world, will be taken from them.

This song says: Only what you do for Christ will last. Some of the verses say,

You may build great cathedrals large or small,  you can build skyscrapers grand and tall, but only what you do for Christ will last…. You may seek earthly power and fame,  the world might be impressed by your great name, soon the glories of this life will all be past, but only what you do for Christ will last. Remember only what You do for Christ will last. Only what you do for Him will be counted at the end;  only what you do for Christ will last.



10 Replies to “Only What You Do For Christ Will Last – A Meditation on the Gospel of the Rich and Poor”

  1. Msgr where did you get that picture, i am familiar with a million dollars in 100’s and that approx the size if it ,it would fit in a medium sized suitcase no joke!! at our bank on display with was guarded with 2 security guards with rifles

  2. “And how can they hear without a preacher? When we obey the man of God He blesses His people 30, 60, 100 fold. ‘ Preach on my friend! Amen.l

  3. God has given me my family and that makes me rich! I do have car,but i want a bigger one. I do have a house but i want a bigger house ect. I should ask to be more like Christ Jesus.

  4. I was horribly shallow … because I never understood this passage until now. I thought if you worked hard, practiced hard, that God will help you get better at playing piano, earn more money, etc. It was always in earthly context.

    But I was transformed at the Sacrament of Healing. I came to the Lord completely broken and my prayer was to grant me strength, perseverance and healing so that I may do HIS will. Never before have I surrendered, been without guard, begging for mercy, because I am nothing without HIm. He has granted me everything I asked of Him. And more — more understanding, more faith, more trust, than ever before.

    Every day I pray that His will be my will so that when the time comes for me to meet my Father, I can run up Jacob’s ladder and into His waiting arms.

  5. Not only does the Lord give this parable, but goes on to explain the parable at considerable length. Indeed, the fuller context of Chapter 4 is the memorable parable about the seed of the word that falls on either on the path, on rocky ground, among the thorns, or into good soil.But such an reading of this text would be incorrect since it fails to understand that the Lord Jesus is speaking of the Kingdom of God and not the kingdom of this world.?

  6. This meditation brings to mind the phrase my grandmother would write every year on our birthday cards each year without fail … “Only one life, will soon be past – only what’s done for Christ will last.” She and my grandfather practiced stewardship of their lives, time, wealth and talents – not with words, but by the example of their private and public choices.

  7. The way I understand this reading (Mark 4: 21-25), also, is that everything depends on the grace of God, for God is a generous giver. It means, for me, that it is not a matter of exerting my own effort to gain God’s favor just by doing the superficial acts of piety in order to get a better return on my spiritual investment. Jesus seems to be telling us to pay attention to his teaching, to what he is saying, and allow his word to take roots in our lives. But if we just content ourselves with operating on the superficial level, we may lose even any action of God working in our lives.

    To love as God loves, is a commitment not to him only, but to others as well. When Jesus says “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” he is saying that it is by giving more that we receive more, as exemplified by another statement he made that ” In the measure you give you shall receive, and more besides.” God’s grace is abundantly flowing, and it is up to us to cooperate with it, as Jesus has shown us, when he gave his all for us on the cross.

    The billionaire and other wealthy people who have no need of God in their lives because they think that they can chart their own destiny, are really not happy people because material things do not satisfy the longing that is inherently within each one of us. They search for endless ways to satisfy this emptiness through drugs, lavish parties, travels, and what-have-you, and still wake up every morning with a void and in need of fulfillment.

    In contrast, those who have heard the word of God uttered in their lives, no matter how faintly, and allowed themselves to go deeper and deeper in order to grasp the message spoken to them, understand that they have found the “pearl of great price.” The longing is for God alone and to be in his kingdom, that place where we allow him to reign in our lives. If we have the Giver, we have all the gifts.

  8. As a shy, devoutly Catholic teenager in an aggressively anti-Catholic public school, I often felt isolated and bullied, often by my teachers. I defended the Church against their bigorty in history class and found myself isolated. This saying got me through those dark times:
    Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
    Only whats done for Christ will last.

  9. Leticia leaves the only comment truly worthwhile. The one you can carry through your day, indeed your life. Thank you Leticia.

    Must we always attack the rich in these explanations? I get so tired of it (I am not wealthy, I have to wait my turn for shoes in my family) Poor people are not automatically closer to God, and the rich are not automatically blind to Him. Perhaps speakers, and social reformers, teachers, and even priests could find a better way to explain this message. This way only only seems to me to encourage self-congratulations, pigeon holing, and judgement.

    Now, go memorize Leticia’s saying. IT could change the world.

  10. Mary, I believe being rich in physical beauty, popularity, power or achievement can be a very great challenge to living the beatitudes. It can be a very very difficult to have a spirit of detachment and to live truly for the Lord. Often, but certainly not always, power, riches, worldly achievement and even maintaining physical beauty as defined by our culture often come with moral compromise and a diversion from the path of Jesus. Having said that, Jesus certainly loved the rich and called them to Himself. All of His warnings to the rich – and there were very many-came from His immense desire to not lose even one soul.
    Monsignor Pope, I have really never had a good explanation of Mark 4:25. I always found it puzzling. Thank you.

Comments are closed.