Do you consider yourself a Christian? Do you hope to get into heaven one day? I’ve been reading a new translation of the Gospel of Mark and one fact really stands out: the doorway into heaven is pretty narrow.
You may know the passage from the Gospel of Matthew that states when it comes to entering heaven, “many are called, but few are chosen.” But within the Gospel of Mark, the eligibility requirements are dialed up a few notches. Jesus mentions three specific criteria for getting into “the kingdom” and it’s safe to say that many of us, myself included, will have trouble passing the test.
Concerned? Don’t be yet. If getting into heaven is on your eternal to-do list, Thomas Moore puts a little context around the criteria in his latest book, Gospel–the Book of Mark, that makes the task seem a little less daunting. What you’ll find below are the words of Jesus from Moore’s new translation, followed by insights from the author (in quotes) with a few comments added by me (in italics).
Criteria #1. You must be like a child.
Let the children come to me. Don’t stand in their way. They are natural citizens in the kingdom of God. Anyone who can’t be like a child can’t enter the kingdom. ~Jesus, Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10
Thomas Moore: “Jesus tells many stories about outsiders and misfits being more likely to merit inclusion in the kingdom than people who think of themselves as virtuous.” It’s not about going to church on Sunday, it’s about the life you lead. “Children belong because they do not fit into the adult world. They have different ways of thinking and relating to others and to the world.” Children do not pass judgement, but see all they meet as equals. They lead with their heart.
Criteria #2. You must give to the poor.
There’s one thing you haven’t done. Go, sell everything you own and give it to the poor. Then your treasure will be up there. Then you can come and join me…It isn’t easy for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. ~Jesus, Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10
Thomas Moore: “You have to create a radical sense of community and step back from pure self-advancement.” It’s not just about us. The world owes us nothing, it’s we who owe the world. “It is difficult, if not impossible, for someone to pursue financial wealth as the main goal in life and still be part of the kingdom…this is not say that wealth is automatically an obstacle, but it is if interferes with your responsibility to respect everyone and live a life of healing.” We must give of our spirit.
Criteria #3. You must be awake to life.
Be alert. You don’t know when the master of the house will come—in the evening, at midnight, at dawn, or in the later morning. Don’t risk him coming and finding you asleep. I can say only this to one and all: Stay awake. ~Jesus, Gospel of Mark, Chapter 13
Thomas Moore: quoting William Blake, “You have to stay awake and not slip into old, lazy habits. Ordinary life lived according to the ways of the world is a condition of sleep.” In other words, we can’t sleepwalk through life and must be aware of the needs and suffering of those around us. “The kingdom requires an alert mind…you have to know what is going on in your world and resist the tendency to slide and drift on currents that flow away from the kingdom ….to be asleep is to be unaware of the sacred.”
Now stop and consider this: What and where is heaven?
You may have been reading along picturing heaven as the place you hope to go to upon death. It’s natural, especially given bestselling books like Proof of Heaven that position heaven as a place we enter upon leaving our bodies. But there’s a very different take on heaven that’s mentioned in the Gospel of Luke, one that runs counter to our pre-conceived notions. I’ll talk more about it in my next post, coming Tuesday, May 16th.