242. Hard for the rich to enter the kingdom.
"How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."* ( Mark 10:23) On seeing that his disciples were amazed at his words, Jesus said again, as if to clarify: *"Children, how hard it is for those who 'TRUST IN RICHES' to enter the kingdom of God."* ( Vs24) Jesus didn't say that it was impossible for a rich man to be saved but that it would be hard for a rich man to be saved because he *invariably* (in every case or on every occasion; always) trusts in his riches since *'the wealth of the rich is their fortified city'.* ( Proverbs 10:15) Nevertheless, God is able to save him but first his trust in his earthly riches must be taken away. Therefore, Jesus said to the rich young man, *"One thing you lack !* ( ie trust in God ) *Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.'* ( Mark 10:21) He did not trust God enough to give away his wealth! Nor do we dare to make Jesus the Lord over our wealth because we fear that he might take it away! He does *'rebuke and discipline men for their sins; he consumes their wealth like a moth'* ( Psalm 39:11), if he finds that it hinders their salvation. It doesn't take much to lose riches because a disease or a mishap can rob a man of his riches! *'Cast but a glance on riches and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.'* ( Proverbs 23:5) *'Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.'* ( Psalm 62:10)
To the Pharisees, who loved money and were sneering at him as he spoke, Jesus said, *"What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight."* ( Luke 16:14-15) Yet we honour the rich in our churches and place money, which is detestable to God, on the altar! ( The temple in Jerusalem had a treasury where offerings were put - Mark 12:41, but money was never placed on the altar.) Many rich people think that they have entered the kingdom of God because they have a say in the Church matters and are generous in giving towards charity and to the Lord's work but they probably haven't entered the kingdom of God yet, because the door to the kingdom is narrow! Material wealth can be brought into the Church on earth but not into the kingdom of heaven. So Jesus humorously said, *"Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."* (Matthew calls the eye of a needle *"trypēmatos rhaphidos",* while Mark calls it *"trymalias tēs rhaphidos".* Both are using the same word for needle, referring specifically to a tailor’s needle, but Luke uses the word *"trēmatos belonēs",* the word for a surgeon’s needle. *However, all three were referring to needles and not to a gate in the wall around Jerusalem.)* Jesus was not exaggerating the impossibility but was honestly telling the truth about the absolute impossibility for those who trust in their riches to enter the kingdom of God, just as it is absolutely impossible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle! That is why the disciples were even more amazed and said, *"Who then can be saved?"* Jesus looked at them and said, *"With man this is impossible, but not with God"* ( Mark 10:27), meaning it is impossible for a man to save himself but God can save anyone; even a rich man ! Having money is not necessarily evil but *'the LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all kinds of evil.'* ( 1 Timothy 6:10) On the contrary, if we are willing to give it all away to the poor, but still does not trust God for our salvation, then it gains us nothing! Paul shares a similar thought when he said, *'If I give all I possess to the poor ... but have not love* ( for God), *I gain nothing.'* ( 1 Corinthians 13:3) Philanthropy doesn't save anyone! It is not the act of giving that saves us but our trust in God. And we prove our trust in God by our giving. We fear that we might become poorer by our giving because we fail to realise that there are *'true riches'* on the other side of the gate to the kingdom ! If we don't set our heart on getting these true riches kept in heaven for us, we will end up setting our hearts on earthly riches because *"where our treasure is, there our heart will be also ... No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."* (Matthew 6:21-24) We can forfeit our earthly riches only if we get a glimpse of the *'true riches'* in Christ! Therefore, Jesus exhorted his disciples, saying, *"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven ..."* ( Matthew 6:19-21) However, our earthly wealth can be a means to get the *'true riches'* if we acknowledge that it is God who *'gives us the ability to produce wealth'* (Deuteronomy 8:17-18) and realise that we are only stewards of the wealth bestowed upon us. " *Whoever can be trusted with very little can be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?"* ( Luke 16:10-11) *"I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves* ( the ones you befriend for Jesus), *so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings."* ( Vs 9) Amen.