Scripture: Matthew 19:23-30
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man 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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25 When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" 26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 27 Then Peter said in reply, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" 28 Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of man shall sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.
Was Jesus really against wealth? And why does he issue such a strong warning to the rich (as well as to the rest of us who desire to be rich)? We know that Jesus was not opposed to wealth per se, nor was he opposed to the wealthy.
He had many friends who were well-to-do, including some notorious tax collectors! One even became an apostle! Jesus' warning reiterated the wisdom of the Old Testament: "Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways" (Proverbs 28:6; see also Psalm 37:16).
"Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be wise enough to desist" (Proverbs 23:4). Jesus seems to say that it is nearly impossible for the rich to live as citizens of God's kingdom. The camel was regarded as the largest animal in Palestine.
The "eye of the needle" could be interpreted quite literally or it could figuratively describe the narrow and low gate of the city walls which was used by travellers when the larger public gate was locked after dark.
A normal sized man had to "lower" himself to enter that gate. A camel would literally have to kneel and crawl through it.
Why is Jesus so cautious about wealth? Wealth can make us falsely independent. The church at Laodicea was warned about their attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (Revelations 3:17).
Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Look at the lesson Jesus gave about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff).
They also neglected to serve God.
The scriptures give us a paradox: we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.
Generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in eternity (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38). Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal.
The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure.
Material wealth will shackle us to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure in God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?