Matthew 19: 23-30
When we read the gospel of today, it will look as if Jesus is condemning anyone to be rich. Jesus is not condemning wealth and neither is he telling us to be poor.
The Bible does not uphold poverty as the pathway to righteousness. Many who will read today’s gospel will think God is promoting poverty, never! God is not condemning wealth and neither is He appraising poverty.
The gospel of today is a follow up from that of yesterday. In that gospel, Jesus told the man who came to Him that to seek a way to enter the kingdom of God, he must 1. sell and share his possession to the poor and 2.Come back and follow Him.
The man went away sad, which shows that He prefers his possessions more than being a disciple of Jesus Christ.
The message Jesus is trying to make the man understand is that He needs to come to Him always and follow Him as a faithful disciple to gain eternal life. Then, If he truly wants to enter the kingdom of God, this discipleship needs to come first above every other choice the man needs to make. But he went away sad. In essence, what he has is more important to him than the kingdom of God.
Therefore, what Jesus is telling us is that whether we are rich or poor, we must humble ourselves before the Lord and make Him first in our lives. This is the wealth we must seek.
Put God First.
God should be the first and above everything else. To choose Him should come first above every other choice we have to make in life. For Jesus, this should come as the most important need. This is the wealth we must seek at all costs.
So, it is after the rich young man left, that Jesus makes the statement that begins this gospel. Jesus now says that a rich man can’t enter the kingdom of God. It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Why did Jesus make this statement?
Jesus makes this statement because the man’s attitude shows that He put his wealth first, rather than being an ordinary disciple of Jesus Christ. He is deeply attached to his wealth rather than sharing it with the poor.
Let us remember that having wealth brings honour. So, the man may be thinking “how can he condescend so low in just being an ordinary disciple? In essence, He is unwilling to detach from it.
The key point here is that whenever our wealth blinds us so much that we take the things of God as nothing, then we belong in today’s category.
Whenever we allow political positions, earthly honours, worldly acquisitions to occupy the first place in our lives than we consider God, then we also belong in today’s category.
Also, whenever you are very tired to come to the Lord’s presence but very quick to pursue material acquisitions, it means that we also belong here. Let us put God first in our life. This is the wealth that is greater than everything that we seek to acquire in this world. This is the wealth we must seek with all our hearts, soul and mind (Matthew 22:37, Luke 10:27).
In Matthew 6:20, Jesus says “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal”. Therefore to seek spiritual riches should come first. This is the wealth we must seek.
Jesus does not Condemn the Rich.
In this gospel, Jesus is not condemning the rich. People like Nicodemus, Joseph Arimathea, Abraham, David were rich but they were not condemned. Despite their positions, they were committed servants of God. Also remember that in Luke 19:1-10, Jesus visits Zacchaeus who is also a rich man.
Hence, the people Jesus is talking about today are those who think their possessions have made them lord of heaven and earth.
These kinds of people, Instead of helping the poor, pile up their money to the detriment of others.
This is when people use political positions to siphon public money into their accounts. The rich man today refuses to share or use what God gives him to help the poor around him who are suffering. This is when the interest is to feed on the plight of the masses. It is when we can even lose our faith in God because of the love of money. It is when we love to acquire earthly possessions more than we seek the salvation of souls.
Jesus is saying that those who belong to this category can never enter the kingdom of God. Instead of seeking heavenly wealth, they seek earthly wealth. Therefore, it would be much easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for such people to enter the kingdom of God. In essence, since they lack that hunger for eternal life, going to it would be like climbing a mountain. The more they try to climb, the more their love of material gain draws them back.
Blessings of God are for the Rich and Poor.
The disciples shout when they hear what Jesus says. The reason is that the Jews had the notion like most of us do today that having money or position means you are blessed while poverty means you lack blessings. They cry out with surprise, “Who then can be saved?”
Therefore, that you are rich or poor is not an indication that God hates you or loves you the most, never!! Some think that God hates them and refused to make them rich, the truth is that God did not hate you. God cannot but love. But those who win His heart are those who commit their hearts to be his disciple despite their status. This is the wealth we must seek. It is the wealth God is interested in.
If God loves only the rich, then there will be no poor man in heaven and if God hates the rich, He would not have loved David, Job and blesses Solomon with riches.
The Wealth We must Seek.
The wealth that leads to the kingdom is not earthly possessions but being a true disciple of Jesus Christ. Job was the wealthiest man in the East, yet he was a chosen servant of God; God loves Him. He did not lose faith despite the challenges that came to him. This is the heart God is talking about. They are those who cannot abandon Him whether good or bad.
David, Jehoshaphat, Josiah, Hezekiah were all wealthy kings, but they loved God more than their earthly greatness and were very faithful to Him. This is true wealth. This is the wealth that we can sacrifice anything to acquire.
There Is A Reward.
Jesus ended today’s gospel by saying that there is a reward for those who give up anything for the sake of the kingdom. He says “everyone who has left houses, brothers, sisters, father, mother, children or land for the sake of my name will be repaid a hundred times over, and also inherit eternal life”
Therefore, there is always a recompense for every sacrifice we make for Christ’s sake. In serving God, you may experience a lot but those sacrifices are never in vain.
What Jesus means.
Finally, what Jesus is telling us today is to seek the wealth that matters. This is seeking God with all our hearts. It is denying ourselves even the most precious things on earth to put God first in everything that we do.
This is when we seek the presence of God not necessarily for signs and wonders but to remain close to Him and achieve eternal life at the end. He says in Mark 8:36 “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet loses his soul?
2. Secondly, that one is rich is not a sign he will experience eternal damnation, no. The issue is not being rich, but the attitude towards it that matters.
Luke 8:3, records that rich women supported Jesus’ ministry on earth. And when Jesus died on a cross, wealthy men took his body and buried it. In Matthew 8:13, Jesus praised the Centurion who was a rich man.
So, God never condemns wealth but warns that sin enters the equation when money becomes the ultimate goal. When we lose hunger for the salvation of souls but relegate God, it then becomes a sin.
In essence, when this happens, we forget our creator, despise the poor, pursue wealth by every means, and forget that our soul will rest after our earthly journey.
There is a problem, when we choose money as our Master, for no one serves two masters at a time (Matthew 6:24,). Therefore, Let us seek the wealth that matters.
May God help us to overcome the temptations of earthly possessions and give us the grace to seek Him with all our hearts. Amen