This widely-held view of wealth in Jesus’ day is still held today. Jesus said it was a hard view to change. He wasn’t kidding!
(12) There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death, and (11) the house of the wicked will be destroyed, but the tent of the upright will flourish.
The second example of extreme story-telling has to do with the rich having a difficult time learning to trust Jesus instead of their wealth:
18 A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” 21 And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 23 But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For 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.” 26 They who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”
Even as far back as Job, who is thought to be a contemporary of Abraham around 2,000 B.C, people thought that wealth equaled righteousness. It certainly equaled power! Jesus set the record straight:
Righteousness is first bestowed by Him and is then wrapped up in a relationship with Him.
In Mark 10:21, it says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Wow! Jesus knew exactly what was keeping the young man from following Jesus with his whole heart: His wealth. What if the young man had said, “Okay, Master. I’ll do it and catch up to You. Where will You be in a week’s time?” How would his life have changed? Who says it didn’t? All the Scriptures say is that he went away sad, but it doesn’t say that he didn’t change his mind. Who knows? He may have trusted Christ after the resurrection, or at Pentecost, he may have been one of the first converts.
Enough positing. Here’s what we do know: People who have riches have a very difficult time letting go of their riches and following Jesus up close and personal. In the Proverb at the beginning of this post, the rich lived in a house, but the upright lived in a tent. We would do well to set limits on ourselves and then give the rest away. Speaking of which, here is a little-known fact about Saint Nicholas:
Nicholas, born in Patara, which is now Turkey, was the son of wealthy parents who
raised him to be a devout Christian. Taking the words of Jesus literally when He told the
rich young ruler to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” Nicholas did just
that. He took his entire inheritance and assisted the needy, the sick, and those who were
After dedicating is life to serving God, in time he was made the Bishop of Myra,
becoming known as one who gave generously to people in need as well as for his love
for children and his concern for sailors. He was persecuted for his faith by the Roman
emperor Diocletian and was subsequently exiled and imprisoned. Upon release he
attended the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. “Business People Who Gave Generously” pg.10
The key to the passage is not so much Jesus’ extreme statement, but what He says right at the last, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” Jesus can save anyone, even the rich. All they have to do is turn and follow, just like us. Cool, huh?
Abba, thank You that I am not rich in worldly wealth. I don’t want anything to keep from coming between You and me. Even now, Robin and I pledge to give up any and all of our earthly wealth if You so desire. We are much more interested in knowing You more intimately and following You more closely. Whatever You want, Lord Jesus. Amen.