The Tragedy of Being Rich

Matthew 19:23-30
Jgs 6:11-24a / Psa 85

Jesus said to His disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 19:23)

Often, wealth is an obstacle
To earn the kingdom of heaven;
Thank God all things are possible,
For those whom Faith has been given.

Jesus said to His disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For man this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Peter said to Him, “We have left everything to follow you! What will there be for us?” Jesus replied, “Amen, I say to you, in the new age, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. (Matthew 19:23-30)

Reflection

Jesus had just advised a rich young man that if he really wanted to be perfect, then “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the rich young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions (Mt.19:21-22). That was when Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” The Jews were stunned. Believing that it was the rich who were blessed by God, if these could not enter heaven, then who could? Our Lord assured them that “for God all things are possible” (19:26).

What our Lord was really telling His disciples was, if not for the mercy and goodness of God, no man could enter the kingdom of heaven. And generally speaking, except for a very rare few, no rich man could hope to obtain God’s mercy and goodness – unless he was willing to give much of his wealth to charity and follow Him. God knows the condition of a rich man’s heart. As Jesus emphasized earlier, “No man can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Mat.6:24). The rich man is so obsessed with his money, properties and businesses, and all the perks and privileges that go with his status in society that he no longer has any time or inclination to serve God, or be concerned about the affairs of other men. With his money, he has access to all the worldly (sinful) things that ordinary people usually cannot afford (like gambling and loose women). And worst of all, He is so distracted by the power that his wealth affords him that he believes he has complete control over his life (and even those under his employ). He no longer depends on God, and eventually forgets that all his possessions come from God.

Followers of Jesus Christ believe that the only things in life that we can claim as our own are our sins. Everything else belongs to God. Realizing this keeps us from being proud, and makes us generous with His resources and gifts. On the other hand, those who cannot accept this, and still cling to their material wealth will only suffer eternal frustration, since they can never bring their riches to the next life. What they will certainly bring are their sins, and these will prevent them from acquiring the real treasure in heaven.

We praise You, Lord Jesus, for making us realize that we came into this life with nothing, so we leave it with nothing … but the hope of eternal life in Your kingdom. Amen.

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