Does God Exact a Higher Standard for Rich People to Enter Heaven?

Matthew 19

16Someone came to Jesus with this question: “Teacher, what good things must I do to have eternal life?”

17“Why ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “Only God is good. But to answer your question, you can receive eternal life if you keep the commandments.”

18“Which ones?” the man asked.

And Jesus replied: “‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. 19Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

20“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

21Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22But when the young man heard this, he went sadly away because he had many possessions.

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 24I say it again—it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

25The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

26Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

27Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get out of it?”

28And Jesus replied, “I assure you that when I, the Son of Man, sit upon my glorious throne in the Kingdom, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will have eternal life. 30But many who seem to be important now will be the least important then, and those who are considered least here will be the greatest then. (Matthew 19:16-30, NLT)


The Daily DAVEotional

In this famous story, a rich young man comes to Jesus and wants to know what good deeds he has to perform to inherit eternal life. It seems that many Jews of that time period believed that there were certain righteous acts that could guarantee salvation. This man wanted to know what the magic deeds were that would assure heavenly admittance.

Jesus responds by telling him to keep the commandments and when the young man asks which ones, Jesus repeats several of the 10 commandments.

The young man is puzzled because in his mind, he’s kept all of the commandments, so he asks Jesus, “what else must I do?”

Jesus seizes on this opportunity to show the person that he really hasn’t kept all the commandments. If it were possible for anyone to fully keep all the commandments, it would have been unnecessary for Jesus to come and redeem man in the first place.

So Jesus tells the young man that if he really wants to be perfect, or complete in his devotion to the law, then go and sell all you have and give the proceeds to the poor.

The text says that the man walked away from Jesus sad because he was a person who own many possessions.

In debriefing this encounter with his disciples, Jesus says that it’s very hard for a rich person to get into heaven. In fact, Jesus makes the claim that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.

So who can be saved?

This is exactly the question the disciples asked and it may be the question you’re asking as well.

What exactly is Jesus teaching? Does he really mean to communicate that it’s more difficult for rich people to enter heaven than others?

At first glance, this seems unfair and unjust, as if rich people have a higher standard they must meet in order to gain entrance into an eternity with God.

Jesus is not saying that rich people cannot go to Heaven; instead He’s making a statement about need and priority. Coming to Jesus and following Jesus is a matter of recognizing your need for Jesus and then forsaking everything else and making Him the priority in your life.

People who have a lot of possessions often have a harder time recognizing their need, since their material needs are already satisfied. In addition, if you own a lot of material possessions, you can become very attached to them. Hence, people who own a lot of things often have a harder time forsaking those things and making Jesus the center.  For this reason, it’s harder for them to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Look at what Peter says in verse 27:

“we’ve given up everything to follow you.”

This is the sentiment of following Jesus – giving up EVERYTHING!

It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you are materially. What matters is being poor in spirit, which simply means that you recognize that you need a savior. If all of your needs are met and you’re feeling pretty content with life, you may have a harder time realizing that you’re a sinner who is in desperate need of help.

If you recognize your need for a savior then the next criteria is a willingness to make Jesus the priority. Jesus never makes selling all your possessions a prerequisite to being saved. He only made this comment to this person in order to bring about an awareness that didn’t exist before, namely, that this young man thought of himself as a person who was not a sinner, but someone who had always upheld every aspect of the Law.

The requirements and standards for getting into heaven are the same for everyone. But some people, who may see themselves as self-sufficient may have a harder time admitting a need for a savior. For people who are wealthy and self-sufficient, recognizing need and brokenness may prove to be harder than for people who are poor and more desperate.

Reflection

How are you doing with Jesus in terms of recognizing your need for a savior and your willingness to make Him a priority in your life?

What are the things that you hold most dear….those things that if Jesus were to ask you to forsake them, you might be tempted to walk away just as the rich young man did?  What is it about those things that make them so important and elevated in your life?

Peter asks a question in verse 27 – “what will we get out of it?”  What do you think most people are expecting to get out of this thing called Christianity? 

What do you think you are going to get out of Christianity?

 

Photo by Sean Foster on Unsplash

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