Read: Matthew 19
Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” … Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” (Matthew 19:16, 21-24)
Twice in his conversation with this rich, young man, Jesus said how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God—as hard, in fact, as it would be for a camel to slip through the eye of a needle!
Now that is a little intimidating, and bothersome, too, in light of this stubborn conviction we seem to have that money will make us happy! It bothered the disciples, too, so we’re in good company. They were so shaken they asked, “Then who in the world can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25) They were unnerved because popular Jewish thought had it that wealth and prosperity were a sign of God’s blessing.
Here’s the deal: Wealth itself isn’t the problem. It’s our attitude toward money; our over-dependence on it! This is really a very simple thing Jesus is saying: Through your own efforts, whatever those efforts might be, you cannot be truly satisfied or eternally saved. That was the original question that led to Jesus response: “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus says that the wealthy can’t be saved through money anymore than someone can one be saved by skills, talents, intellect, good looks—or even by living a good life!
Wealth is not the overriding issue here. As you can see, it would be just as dangerous for an underprivileged person to think that his poverty gave him spiritual piety and eternal favor. In truth, anything can lead us from the path of righteousness: Not only wealth, but drink, food, television, leisure, entertainment, or any number of things available to us in this world. In II Timothy 4:10, Paul writes, “Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.” What caused this close friend and ministry companion, Demas, to leave Paul and walk away from Christ? He loved the world; the particulars aren’t divulged.
Whatever it was, the simple fact is that a camel cannot go through the eye of a needle, and someone who loves the world more than God, whether rich or poor, forfeits the approval of God. I John 2:15-17 says,
“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
Again, the point is that we do not achieve salvation through our own efforts, nor can we gain lasting security and satisfaction by worldly means; those are from God alone. So the real issue Jesus is addressing—back then and right now—is about priorities, not possessions. He isn’t teaching that wealth is wrong… it’s not money that’s evil…it’s the love of money that’s at the root of all kinds of evil. (I Timothy 6:10)
Jesus’ real concern is this: What possesses you—not what you possess.
“Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.” ~Francis Bacon
What If God Took Over?
One of the toughest areas to completely surrender to God is our money—and what money represents. Would you join me in offering this prayer to God?
“Dear God, I want you to possess all of me. Deliver me from the deceitfulness of wealth, or any other thing that I have substituted for you to bring me earthly happiness and eternal security. Bring me to that place where I am ready to let it all go in complete obedience and full devotion to you in whatever way you should ask.”