A friend of mine was a missionary in Africa for 13 years. He returned home to a lower than average standard of living, without a retirement plan and without any equity in a house. You may know others who have sacrificed abroad or at home for the gospel's sake seemingly without anything material to show for it. Occasionally, we see bitterness in similar circumstances and hear the natural question, "What's in it for me?"
After hearing Jesus' exposé on wealth, the disciples also asked, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?" (Matthew 19:27 NIV) Unlike the rich young man earlier in this chapter, it seems like the disciples had left wealth behind, but not sold it. We know that Peter owned at least one house. Yet Jesus promised to reward them for their sacrifice with unique positions, a hundred times what they had left behind and eternal life.
In order to understand the promise of verse 29, I think it is good to understand a little bit about what property ownership really means. Most English speaking countries and 49 of the 50 US States use English Common Law as the basis of property ownership. I think that French Common Law used in Louisiana is similar. This gives us a right to property as tenants in common, joint tenants, or tenants by the entirety, but tenants nevertheless. We really live under an occasionally used law, the law of eminent domain or similar name. This means that the government can take our land any time they want for the greater public good. We are after all, tenants and not permanent owners at law.
I can see the positive side of that, because that's also the reality with God. He is the ultimate owner of everything. In other words, when Jesus said that we will receive a hundred times the houses, family and lands that we may have left behind, that is for this life as well as the next (Mark 10:29-30; Luke 18:29-30). We don't have to own something to enjoy it. In fact we don't really own it anyway do we? So what am I getting at?
Since being a Christian, I have enjoyed many people's farms and lands, have been a guest in hundreds of homes and count hundreds of Christians as friends and family. And this was just this present life in this world. That's why I believe Jesus meant it literally when he said to his students, "And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life." (Matthew 19:29 NASB)