Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man 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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
-Matthew 19:23-26 (NIV)
Here we find Jesus explaining to his disciples the impossibility of salvation for those who put their trust in money above God. And he illustrates it in a peculiar way, contrasting a 1,000-pound camel with the size of the eye of a sewing needle.
I think a lot of modern-day Americans skim over verses like this because they don’t believe it is applicable. They hear about this “rich man” and think, “Wow, I’m glad I’m not that guy!”
And here’s why we are in a dangerous situation: we don’t feel rich. We look around our communities and neighborhoods and we say, “Look at what they have! I wish I had as much money as them. Now that’s a rich person!” But is that a fair comparison?
Consider this: More than half of the world’s population lives on less than $2 a day. Narrowing it down even further, over 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day.
Folks, I spend more than that on a pack of chewing gum.
When over 50% of the world gets by on 2 bucks a day, maybe it’s time to stop comparing yourself to your neighbors down the street and instead looking at yourself in a new light. When Jesus is talking about the rich, he’s talking about us. In the grand scheme of things, mostly likely you are filthy, stinking rich.
I think there are a scary number of people who think that they will simply waltz into heaven one day but don’t realize that at this very moment, their personal god isn’t Jesus. Their allegiance is pledged to money.
According to Jesus, becoming a part of God’s eternal kingdom is going to be hard. And it’s going to be especially difficult for those who are rich. Matter of fact, you’d have better luck squeezing a camel through the eye of a needle.
The disciples, for all their faults, actually got this one… “Who then can be saved?” What a great question! And they’re right — the fact that we are rich is a tremedous spiritual disadvantage. We have something consistently competing for our hearts.
But the point is not of despair but of hope. Yes, it is impossible — apart from God’s grace. But by realigning our trust in him instead of money we are redirecting our value and security back to the One who provides for us in the first place. This allows us to use God’s gifts for God’s purposes for God’s glory, freeing us from the intoxicating grip of greed and self-sufficiency.
And when we do that, we are left with the only thing that matters, the only thing that truly lasts…
The kingdom of heaven awaits.