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.”
We often elevate those with money in our minds. We might not vocalize the thoughts that they’re better than us. We might not vocalize the thoughts that they’re ‘better’ than poor people. But each day millions of people tune into the celebrity news, read gossip tabloids or websites, and pay attention to the lives and style of wealthy people.
The wealthy, the famous, and the powerful are all treated differently too. There often seems to be two legal systems in our nation, one for the rich and one for the rest of us. And it’s not just in matters of secular law. Who do you think would be received better in most churches? A handsome man dressed in a nice suit with expensive polished shoes and perfectly coiffed hair or a man dressed in cast off, second-hand clothes whose hair was a bit greasy and who smelled a bit like he hadn’t showered in a few days?
The book of James touches on this:
2 My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? 5 Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? 7 Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?
8 If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
The rich are held up as examples to us. Why? A lot of reasons. Part of it is culture. There is a cultural lie that all wealth is earned. That the wealthy man was just smarter, better, and worked harder than everyone else to get what he has. And that might be true in some cases, but it’s not true for most. But we believe it because it holds out the hope for us that if we ourselves work hard than we will get what is our due. To which I would say, you should read the book of Job sometimes. Job was better than most of us according to the tale. Lost it all in a single day and was reduced to a sick, smelly, ruined man sitting in ashes in his house through no fault of his own. He had his wealth returned to him by God according to the end of the story, not through his own hard work.
Part of it might be religion. There is a strain of Christianity that insists that God will reward those with faith with monetary gain. The righteous will prosper and their bank accounts will overflow if you just master the secret of faith and send me $200 that you don’t have as a ‘faith’ offering. Unsurprisingly, the only people who get money that way are the people preaching that lie.
I mention all of this because Jesus’ words to the disciples shocked them. Jesus tells them that the rich will have a more difficult time entering into heaven. It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than it is for them to get into heaven. And no, we’re not talking about some mythical gate into Jerusalem called the needle gate, we’re talking about a literal sewing needle. Hence the disciples’ shock and their question, “Who then can be saved?”
Hey, if the people with wealth and resources that God has blessed them, if the powerful, the ‘good’ people can’t get in, what hope do we have, they think.
I can picture the Lord smiling when He tells them that the things that are impossible with man are possible with God.
It’s not about wealth, or good looks, or power, or resources, or status, salvation is about God. Always has been. Always will be. We’re all equally dependent upon God to help us work out our own salvation. He is the author and the finisher of our faith. He is the one that holds us in His hand and lets no one take us from Him. He is the one from whom nothing can separate us from His love. We’re all equal in our need for God and in our need for a Savior. There is no partiality with God. Rich and poor are equal in His eyes. We all have great value because we are lost sons and daughters who are loved. We’re all cherished. He throws a party for each of us when we come home.
And he expects us to treat each other the same. No partiality. Just family one and all. And if we’re part of the family with resources, we’re to give those without resources what they need. They’re family. Wealth isn’t to be hoarded away, but invested into people.
28 Peter said, “Behold, we have left our own homes and followed You.” 29 And He said to them, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times as much at this time and in the age to come, eternal life.”
At this point, Peter decides to mention that unlike the rich young ruler, they have left everything behind. They’ve left their businesses. They’ve left their families. They’ve been on the road now for 3 ½ years with only a few stops at home to check in. They’ve sacrificed everything they had to follow Jesus. And Jesus points out that they’ve given up much, but they will gain far more than that. They will gain mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, they will gain houses (in that the homes of the faithful will always be open to them and in the eternal, a house or transformed body built by God.) They will have family all over the world as more men and women believed in Christ and began to follow Him. They will be richer than they could ever imagine, and most of them would die as penniless outlaws much like their Lord. Their wealth found not in gold, but in the hearts of their new family.