“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.” v. 23
There was a nice couple in a small town who had a baby boy. They loved him and wanted only the best for him. Like any good parent they did all they could to give him every opportunity in life. They taught him to be good, respect God, work hard and be nice to people. They sent him to good schools and took him to church, and went to all of his ball games. As he grew he was encouraged to make a good life for himself using the values of hard work, and good living and love for God and country, which he did. As you would expect he eventually grew up, got married and started a new life. He became quite successful in business, often telling people of the solid values that helped him make it. He was living the dream. One day as he stood on the golf course, at about the 7th hole, he began think about the future. It occurred to him that he wasn’t getting any younger and he’d better think about where he was going when he died. He was brought up in a religious home, and always tried to live by good religious principles, even taking his family to church fairly regularly. In fact he was on the board when they built a new wing onto the local church. His name is listed among the top donors on a nice display. But still he felt a tug in his soul. He felt that he needed to make sure he had his bases covered with God, just in case. One day this man came to Jesus and asked, “Good teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
If you read the story you will see that Jesus told him “go, sell all you have and give the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The man went away sad, it tells us, because he had many possessions…or perhaps his possessions had him. Then Jesus proceeded to say something that would offend people for generations to come: “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.” He’s not pulling any punches here. He says plainly that the wealthy have a particular challenge when it comes to following Jesus. Now before you comfort yourself by focusing your thoughts on the person who has more wealth than you, keep in mind that if you were able to buy this book, you are wealthy. As helpful as I hope this book is to you, it’s a luxury. You don’t need it to survive. So it’s a luxury. There are millions on your planet who could never imagine buying a book of any kind. You are wealthy. Don’t apologize or feel guilty for your blessings, that’s not what this is about. God has blessed you. Be thankful. Be a good steward of what you have. Share it with those in need as God leads you. But also be aware that wealth can keep you from the kingdom of God. That’s what Jesus said. Here’s why we have to be careful that we don’t miss eternity because of what we have in this life.
- Wealth gives us a false sense of our own goodness. The man came to Jesus, saying “good teacher.” and Jesus responded, “No one is good but God.” There is a tendency to think that we have what we have because we are good in an =d of ourselves. If we see someone well dressed and owning great possessions, we often assume this is a good person. The people of Israel assumed that if you were rich, God was blessing you for your own goodness. Today we think the same very often. If my life is good, then I must be good, therefore I don’t need God’s mercy. But Jesus says quite the opposite. “Woe to those who are at ease in Zion” Amos said, referring to people who were well off materially but had no concern for the needy or for God. This leads into the next point.
- Wealth creates pride in what we have and what we do. The man was proud of his religious observances. “All these I have done from my youth.” NO doubt he was proud of his accomplishments in economics as well. Wealth gives us the sense that we have become self-made. Through hard work and enterprise we have climbed up to where wea re, perhaps with a little help from “the man upstairs” as we say. I John tells us not to love the things of this world, which include, “The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and pride in possesions.” (I John 2:15-26) Wealth makes us proud of ourselves to the point that God is either rejected or placed on a plaque on the wall. God resists the proud, the Bible tells us.
- Wealth is a cruel master. Finally, Wealth owns you and controls you to some degree. The young man “went away sad, because he had great possessions.” Why was he sad? I can understand being indignant or offended, even amused. But he went away sad. He thought of giving up all he had to follow Jesus, but he just couldn’t do it. I think he was a good man, but he was owned by his stuff. There is something compelling about wealth. Things have a way of growing on us like vines entrapping us. The thought of letting go of something we own is often difficult. The greater the value, the more difficult it is to release. Take a minute and thing of your greatest material possessions. How hard would it be to simply give any of them away? The young man was sad because he was trapped. he couldn’t imagine life without the things he had worked for. They owned him. Listen, whether it’s your favorite CD’s or your mansion on the hill, it can own you if you let it.
- Wealth keeps us from experiencing God’s best. At the end of our passage, Peter says to Jesus, “We have given up everything to follow you. Jesus responded: “Truly, I say to you,there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake andfor the gospel, who will 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. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”In other words, God wants more for you than you want for yourself. Whatever you give up for him he will replace in this life and in eternity. So don’t let your wealth rob you of the kingdom of God. Give everything to him who has given everything for you.