And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
(Matthew 19:23-26 ESV)
Yesterday we saw the rich young ruler walk away from Jesus because he valued his possessions more than he valued eternity in heaven. He gave up a permanent place in God’s presence for all eternity rather than give up his earthly treasures which he could not keep anyway. Today Jesus comments on this man’s decision.
In fact, what Jesus says is so important that He says it twice in this one passage and makes it clear that we should take heed of His word (truly). And this truth is that it is difficult for a rich person to enter heaven. Using a colloquial expression of the day, Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter heaven.
The reason for this is simple. It’s just what we saw with the rich young ruler. Wealth provides security. With it one can obtain all they need and more on this earth. He trusts his money to take care of any need that may arise. When one is wealthy he sees no reason to depend on God [Revelation 3:17].
While money helps us obtain things here on earth, it is useless in regards to eternity. Riches cannot save anyone from hell or gain anyone access to heaven [1 Timothy 6:17].
The Jews viewed material wealth as a sign of God’s favor and, therefore, proof that someone was going to heaven after they died. This is why Jesus’ words greatly astonished the disciples. “If a rich person wasn’t guaranteed heaven who then can be saved?” they wondered.
The only way for anyone to be saved from the penalty of their sins is to believe God for the forgiveness of those sins [John 3:16; Acts 16:30-31; et. al]. This is only possible because God created a way for sins to be forgiven through the death of His perfect, sinless son, Jesus. It is impossible to be saved by any other means.
God does not condemn riches. Nor is it impossible to be saved if one was rich. Abraham, David, and Joseph of Arimathea were all made wealthy by God (as were others). But they put their trust in God, not their money. But this is the exception, not the norm.
Riches are a distraction. They make us satisfied with life instead of longing for something better. They keep us focused on earth and keep us from turning our attention to God. And one cannot serve God and money [Matthew 6:24]. In this way it is better to have very little on this earth rather than too much; it’s best to simply have our daily needs met [Matthew 6:11].
If one loves money more than he loves God then money has become that person’s god [Exodus 20:3]. Such a person will do as the rich, young ruler did – turn his back on the only one who could save him.
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