Mat 19:23 And Jesus said unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Mat 19:25 And when the disciples heard it, they were astonished exceedingly, saying, Who then can be saved?
Mat 19:26 And Jesus looking upon them said to them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
I’ve read a lot of commentary on this passage and most of them seem to focus on the question of whether or not it is easy or hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the statement Jesus is making here. He is clearly stating, by using hyperbole, that it is very difficult for a rich man to make it into salvation. Understanding this to be true our next logical question should be, who is a rich man?
The disciples seem to be perplexed and clearly surprised by Jesus’ answer and they ask Him, “Who then can be saved?” Notice in Matthew 19:16-22 that Jesus is dealing with a rich man who has been visibly “good” and kept the commandments as well as any man could expect to keep them. We might even assume by the reaction of the disciples in Matt 19:25 that they see this rich young man as the perfect image of someone who would be right for the Kingdom of Heaven.
What does it mean to be rich and in danger of losing the Kingdom of Heaven?
Now, on to defining what is meant by “rich”. Clearly having great monetary wealth and possessions is the physical and worldly definition of rich; but what about the spiritual definition of rich. What is it about being rich that makes it so hard to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven? Was it just his money that made him rich?
We must take into account the common belief of the time. If you were sick or poor or crippled or any other “bad” thing it was the belief of the time that you were cursed by God because of a sin in your life. With that in mind we can now see the rich young man through the eyes of the disciples. They saw him as someone who was blessed by God, not cursed. They saw him as being close to God not only because of his obvious blessing of wealth but because he had also been a law abiding, tradition keeping member of the Jewish community. This is the reason for their astonished question “Who then can be saved?”. In other words, “If this guy can’t make it in, who can?”
Jesus sees the rich young man through spiritual eyes. He sees that he has only kept the commandments to be seen of men and that there is really no changed heart in him. Jesus knows that this rich man is only outwardly rich, but on the inside he is very poor. Humble selflessness is the money of heaven; not self exultation and outward show.
Jesus is using this experience to teach his disciples and also to hopefully bring the rich man to a place where he can contemplate his inner state. Jesus has already made it clear that keeping the commandments of God is not an outward display but a “circumcision” of the heart. This principle is more clearly stated by Paul in Romans so I will just quote him here…
Rom 2:28 For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision.
Rom 2:29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
How do we become rich with heavenly reward?
- Do good to others, without a desire to be seen of other men.
- Love those who persecute you and hurt you.
- Love your neighbor as yourself.
- Forgive and forget.
- Give your heart to God.
- Make God first in all things.
…or as Jesus put it;
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
These are true blessings. These are true wealth. These can get you through the eye of a needle.
I praise You for Your Wisdom and Your Holiness. I come now to the foot of the cross and I see the true humbleness that goes beyond my sin-filled souls ability to comprehend. I believe that You accomplished the taking of my sins at the cross through an act of insurmountable humbleness and I PRAISE YOU and YOU alone for it!
Please Lord, I ask that You would come into my life today. Fill my heart with Your life. Give me Your Humbleness and Your Selflessness.
Watch over my children and the children of all believers. I lift up the grandchildren of Ellen Sauder. I praise you for her life.
I ask all of these things in Jesus name, and in His character. Amen.