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.”
In places like the area where I grew up, there are plenty of wealthy people; they are some of the richest in the world comparative to the deep poverty that exists in several places across this globe.
While it is easy and comfortable to remain inside the bubble of affluence, technology has made it much easier for poverty to leave an indelible mark on us through video and pictures. Statistics are screamed out to us about the unrelenting poverty that attacks so many people in this world.
Yes, it is good to know these things. Yet, the attitude that I have discovered inside myself and in others who live in affluence tends to settle on a concept from Matthew 19 where Jesus talks about the difficulty that rich people encounter when it comes to entering into the Kingdom of God.
The end result from this focus has resulted in Christians shouldering a burden that they are not supposed to bear. We take up the wrong cross in the war against poverty so easily. We hear about and see pictures of malnutrition, disease, and a lack of clean water. Then, we consider our own overabundance, and we allow it to blind us by considering only one part of what Christ says in Matthew. We forget the power of the next few verses.
Financial security, three square meals a day, and all the water we could ever need suddenly stop being blessings. They become a curse to us because people around the world don’t have the same luxuries, and we tend to carry around some semblance of shame because of all that we have.
This thought tends to come into my mind: “What did I do to deserve any of this? I could do nothing to control where I was born, and I could have just as easily been born in an impoverished city.”
Certainly, one aspect of Jesus’ message in Matthew 19 is that it is difficult for rich people to enter the Kingdom because they love their stuff too much. The other side of the message, though, is that people place too high an emphasis on wealth’s importance. We see the first part of this message when the lens focuses on the young ruler; the second part comes during Christ’s conversation with His disciples.
When Christ tells the disciples those first few verses, they immediately respond with disbelief. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they ask (Matt. 19:25). I have looked around at all of the blessings that my family shares, our relative wealth, and I have shared in the disciples’ disbelief. Should I allow myself to be comfortable having so much?
I don’t think that such anxiety is what Jesus was trying to drive His followers toward. His command in verse 21 exposed something in the rich young ruler’s heart, and His comments to the disciples reveal something about their hearts.
Christ demonstrates the incredible power and love of God when He says, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible [for a rich person to enter heaven]. But with God everything is possible.” Whether we have much or whether we have little, our trust is meant to be in Christ (this comes from Phil. 4:11-13). I believe that this is the point Jesus was making.
God expects us to trust Him completely regardless of whether our circumstances seem impossible or if they seem like something that we can easily handle on our own.
(There will be more to come on this topic in the next few days.)