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What the 100-fold return in Jesus’ teaching really means
It's probably different than you think

Many times through the past fifty years, especially during an offering in Christian gatherings or on television, I’ve heard certain leaders enthusiastically quote Jesus’s promise of a 100-fold return. Usually, the forecasted results include astounding financial breakthroughs, the cancelling of debt, and material increase—which sounds like bargaining with God, doesn’t it? I believe that giving should be an act of devotion and an expression of worship. Sometimes, it may be given in faith with a praise-filled anticipation of a certain breakthrough, but usually, there should be no expectation of anything in return. It is a LOVE-offering, and real love for God has no strings attached.

When we study the original text, though, we discover an interpretation surprisingly different that what is usually promoted. Here is the divine pledge Jesus shared with His disciples:

     “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:29-30, see Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 18:18-30).

Notice, money was never mentioned in these two verses, and Jesus was definitely not pledging an exact multiplication of the items He did list (for example, “If you give up one house, you will eventually own a hundred more”—or as someone jokingly asked me, “If I get married and give up one wife, can I have a hundred more?”—of course, that’s not what Jesus meant).

The Son of God was proposing something altogether different. He was actually urging His disciples to completely sacrifice their lives for the kingdom of God. This passage was never intended as a divine strategy for people to achieve a greater level of material prosperity. Just ask the rich young ruler who apparently prompted the Lord to voice this challenge. Because a few moments before, he walked away sorrowfully from the Messiah, because Jesus asked him to give away his wealth to the poor and needy.

So, it wasn’t a heaven-to-earth business proposition; on the contrary, it was a call to radical discipleship.

No one should ever pull those two beginning verses out of context to prove some prosperity theory. For a proper understanding of Jesus’ intended meaning, the words of the Son of God must be examined connected to the entire passage (Mark 10:17-31). Jesus definitely did not tell the young man that if he sowed a large offering into His ministry, that his businesses and bank account would grow exponentially (of course, not). Much the opposite, He made shocking statements like:

     “You lack one thing: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. And come, take up the cross and follow Me.” (Mark 10:21)

And a line that is quoted quite often came shortly after:

     “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

So, if this be true, what exactly was Jesus proposing? Is it wrong to have wealth? No, but it’s wrong for wealth to have you! If Jesus had intended this conversation to be the basis for a “7-Point Plan for Biblical Prosperity,” He would have presented a totally different message to the rich young ruler who started the conversation by saying, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

What Jesus Really Meant

Mainly, Jesus was promising that true disciples who make great personal sacrifices to promote the Gospel will be rewarded with new, godly, loving relationships among those they influence. Many who receive help and salvation from those who go forth proclaiming the Gospel will in gratitude open the doors of their hearts and homes and there will be hundreds of new relationships formed—spiritual brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers. So the “hundredfold increase” primarily means the establishing of valuable, long-term, spiritual, covenant relationships that enrich the heart (not necessarily the wallet). Plus, don’t forget that Jesus added “persecution” at the end of the list as part of the expected ‘rewards’? Gulp! That part’s not easy to swallow, is it?  His greatest implication was to promise that those who advance God’s kingdom by giving up personal ambitions and possessions will be rewarded with an eternal inheritance that infinitely surpasses anything this world can ever supply.

Balancing Out the Discussion

So, let me bring balance to this explanation. I do believe that God wants to prosper His people—especially those in great need (He was going to use the rich young ruler to do that). If this were not the case, God’s Word would never offer promises like the following:

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2 NKJV).

Also, when Christian businessmen invite Jesus to be Lord over their businesses and use them for His glory, God honors that and often commands His blessing (see Deuteronomy 8:18). There must be provision for the vision or God’s work will never move forward successfully. For instance, all the mission trips I have taken through the years (to India, and various nations in South America and Africa) were funded by Christian businessmen whose passion was to advance God’s kingdom through their generosity (which I prayed would return to them according to the promise: “Give, and it will be given to you: Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will men give unto you. For with the measure you use, it will be measured unto you.” Luke 6:38).

So, we need to be careful not to go from one extreme to the other (or throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater). God doesn’t want His people to be poor, but at the same, the Gospel is not all about wealth and riches being attained.

The truth is usually found midway between two extremes. No wonder, when the disciples expressed shock and concern during this conversation, and Peter blurted out, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus responded:

“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” (Mark 10:27)

Yes, the key is walking “with God” in all our earthly endeavors.

How I Experienced the 100-Fold Return in My Own Life

Sacrificing for the kingdom of God has been my mindset from the beginning. I was saved in the fall of 1970, during the Jesus Movement era. Shortly after, I moved to a Christian commune in Central Florida. Most of its nine members worked demanding construction jobs during the day. We gave 90% of our paycheck to the work of the Lord, and we had church seven nights a week. So, we were already extreme in our faith-walk. But one night, sitting around a campfire, the commune leader showed me a statement Jesus made that stirred both of our hearts:

So likewise, any of you who does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:33).

Bob said, “Do you know anyone doing this?” I said, “No.” He said, “Let’s do it.” I said, “Sure, I’m willing.” It was that simple—a decision made in about two minutes. That week, we both gave away all our money to the poor and everything we owned to the needy. All we allowed ourselves was one extra set of clothes and a Bible in a small sack.

We had an invitation to minister at a church in Bloomington, Indiana—almost a thousand miles away. So, we stepped out on the road, hitchhiking that direction. I still remember the little cardboard sign we held up that said, “GOING FOR JESUS!” We had no idea when we would get to eat our next meal or where we would sleep. On our way, we preached on street corners and college campuses. It was a holy adventure.

When we arrived in Bloomington, the pastor sent word that he had changed his mind and canceled the revival. That was very discouraging—but I soon learned a valuable lesson right from the beginning—that with Jesus, setbacks become setups and disappointments become divine appointments. As we walked down the street, near the university, Bob slapped me on the shoulder and said, “Mike, we came to Indiana to preach, so we’re going to preach!”

About that time, we passed “The People’s Park,” a grassy, corner lot that had been purchased by the local yippies (yippies were hippies that were passionate about political and social causes, usually leaning toward communism). There was a big sign in the middle of the lot declaring it was for the free use of the people (a political statement supportive of commonly held property). Bob looked at me and said, “That’s our church.” It didn’t have carpet, but it was covered with lush, green grass. It didn’t have a high cathedral ceiling, but it did have a star-studded universal dome overhead. How fitting! In Jericho-style, we marched around the field seven times, praying in the Spirit, and claiming that property for the kingdom of God. (I have always marveled that God used communists to provide our first “church.”)

After pondering the situation, Bob commented, “Mike, we can’t have revival without advertisement.” Since we only had fifty cents, I wondered what he planned on doing. Looking inspired, he walked across the street to a dollar store and bought two red magic markers. Following close behind, I was still wondering what he was up to.  With a twinkle in his eyes, he urged, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” So we walked around a pizza parlor to the dumpster in back. Bob explained his plan. We pulled out four old pizza boxes (to make signs to prop at each corner of the park) and about forty cardboard beer boxes (for people to sit on). Then we wrote on the pizza boxes:

REVIVAL! OLD FASHIONED STREET PREACHING / Miracles, Signs & Wonders, Healing the Sick, Casting Out Devils, Prophesying, Raising the Dead, Every Night at 7:30

I know the sign sounds a little extreme, but we were trying to attract attention and get a response from those who generally unresponsive to traditional Christian messages. And by the way, no one brought a corpse so we were not challenged to measure up to the biblical standard in that area.

Remarkably, about 70 people showed up, all of them hippies, druggies, and flower children into alternate spiritual paths. Most of them lived together in a hippie commune nearby, a large mansion near the university—where all of them were part of a communal marriage—yes, I agree, not something I would have been comfortable with even in my ‘hippie days.’ The opening night, I preached my very first sermon on Jesus’s challenge in Mark 8:35:

“Whoever would save his life will lose it. But whoever would lose his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”

After 45 minutes, I gave an invitation and almost everyone gave their hearts to the Lord, including a musician who played with a band that opened for Led Zeppelin. Most of the members of the commune were saved, so they invited us to move our ministry location to the mansion. We preached there for a week. That was the beginning. And I have never stopped traveling since. The first year it was mostly ministering on college campuses, on street corners, then eventually in churches, schools, conferences, in mass outdoor gatherings overseas—all kinds of venues—in almost every one of the 50 states in the United States, and fourteen other nations.

I left the comfortable life of being the leader of a yoga commune (before I became a follower of Jesus), then the predictable income of a construction worker (after my salvation experience), and the comforts of pleasant and peaceful Christian commune in Oviedo, Florida. I gave away everything and all I had left was a “hundredfold” promise. It came to pass. Literally hundreds of people have opened the doors of their hearts and homes and churches to me around the globe. I have many thousands of friends in the body of Christ worldwide. Also, multiplied thousands of people have found the Lord Jesus Christ through my efforts—who, in a sense, are my spiritual children—which is the greatest blessing of all.

As Jim Elliot, martyred missionary to Ecuador, so famously pointed out: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

So that’s the true essence of the hundredfold promise: losing your life to find it—in a blessed, spiritual sense.




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Written by Mike Shreve