“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 19:23 & 24
This statement was shocking to the disciples as they would view the rich as people especially blessed by God, likely due to their righteousness. We don’t tend to see wealth in the same way today. We don’t look up to those we think of as wealthy in that way. But people get skittish around this saying. In fact, in the 8th century AD, a small gate was built in Jerusalem. Just tall enough for a person to enter, a camel was forced to its belly and would have to crawl to enter the city this way. The gate was named “The Eye Of The Needle”. Now, the impossible was simply something that required great humility. This was not what Jesus had in mind.
For most of us in North America, we don’t think Jesus had us in mind either. We don’t think of ourselves as wealthy. But we are.
As the saying goes, most rich people don’t know that they are rich, but if you are poor, you know it. Three simple markers can easily distinguish between the top 10% wealthiest people and the lower 90%: if you have money in any amount on your person (i.e. in your wallet), in your home (i.e. between the couch cushions) and in a bank, you are in the top 10%. Congratulations, you are rich.
And Jesus says it is hard for you to enter the kingdom of heaven. Why? Self-reliance. Your resources keep you from sensing your need for God and the money in your bank account is insurance that you wouldn’t have to in the future.
“The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor.”
Wealth breeds security. But the temporal kind of security, the kind that does not last. So Jesus’ injunction in the Sermon on the Mount is to build up wealth for yourself that cannot be destroyed. In heaven.
Jesus points the rich young ruler here in the same direction. With God all things are possible. The lame can walk. The blind will see. And the rich can give up on themselves. Submission is just as difficult for this young fellow as many today. We are taught to self-actualize, to imagine our preferred self and future and then make it happen. Submission to God is just the opposite. Give up your plans for yourself and tap into the image of God stamped upon you. Give up your riches and follow Christ in His poverty.
And find your life.
Lord, help me do the impossible. I want to enter your kingdom.