Not a statement on wealth
After the rich man leaves, Jesus takes a few moments and unpacks what just happened with his disciples.
He tells them that it is really difficult for a rich man to get into heaven. He tells them it’s easier for a camel to squeeze into the eye of a needle. Now, the camel was the biggest animal they had in that day…but you could easily read “it’s easier for an elephant to squeeze into the eye of a needle.”
It’s easier to interpret this as Jesus saying that’s its nearly impossible to be rich and to be a kingdom follower. That anyone who has money will most likely not make it.
This is not true, at all. We have a list of men and women throughout Scriptures who were wildly wealthy, and loved God. Think: Abraham, Isaac, David, Zacceaus, Solomon…etc
Money, or lack of money, isn’t the determining factor for our spiritual fate.
Jesus does, however, point to the fact that money can be a major influence in our kingdom faith.
The command we often hear isn’t right
When we read this story, we hear Jesus give the rich ruler the command to go and give away his possessions. That’s the part that sticks out to us. But that’s not the most important command God is giving the rich ruler.
He tells him to come follow Jesus.
The problem with money
The problem with money is that it, like Jesus, can begin to demand our attention, our focus and our love.
Earlier in Matthew, during his famous sermon on the mount, Jesus said this of money:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Money so often competes with God. Our desire for it, the feelings it brings, and the security it allows us to feel can replace a desire for God, a feeling for him, and trusting in the security HE brings.
The deal breaker
The deal breaker wasn’t that the man was rich. The deal breaker was that he loved his money more than he loved God. He was more willing to part ways with the truth than he was to part ways with his money.
His money controlled him. The rich rulers master was his wealth. And it’s impossible to serve two masters, as Jesus showed us.
Blowing up worldviews
What I love is the interaction we see after the rich young ruler walks away.
The disciples, who are creations of their culture, have just witnessed a man who has it all. He does everything he’s supposed to, he has the outward sign of God’s blessing (wealth) and yet Jesus says that it’s impossible for a rich man to get into heaven.
They have this little conversation in response to what they’ve just seen:
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
With God all things are possible
The disciples, terrified by the upside down world they are seeing, ask God how anyone can make it to heaven. And what is Jesus’ response? In God, all things are possible.
He is saying, God is the reason we are welcomed.
Not any of the reasons that make any sense to us.
It’s an attitude of the heart
We see an example of this later on in the Gospels in Mark 12:41-43
41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
A woman who serves only God
Here we see the polar opposite of the Rich Young Ruler. Here we see a woman who, left alone and ignored by society, in faith gives the tiny amount that she has.
Jesus tells his disciples that this is what generosity is all about. It’s about simple service to God. Knowing he’s the one who is our master. He’s the one in control.
God’s the one who will care for you and me. He’s the one who will provide our security.
Money = acceptance
So often the church turns giving money, or giving tithe, into something that will save you…that will make you rich…that will start a chain reaction of blessings in your life.
But that isn’t promised.
If you tithe, or if you give, I cannot promise that you’ll be rich within the year…or that you will receive a promotion, or that you will have a long-lost uncle who will die and give you all his endless wealth.
If you notice, Jesus doesn’t say the widow will be forever okay. He doesn’t say that she’ll never have another issue since she trusted God.
He only commended her trusting of God.
To live out a life of generosity, especially financially, places our entire lives in the hands of God. To give up a percentage of what we earn back to God takes trust and surrender.
And those are 2 things God wants most from us.