Read Matthew 19
We come to a familiar story. A rich man came to see Jesus. He sought him out. He had questions. He wanted to know what he must do to obtain eternal life.
We skip for now the part about good teacher or what good things and proceed to the man’s question. What must I do to receive eternal life?
Jesus noted simply to obey the commandments.
You might think that this would have been cause for celebration as the young man surely thought he had been checking the blocks all of his life, but he asked a follow-up question. Which ones?
We should take this question as sincere. After all, surely some of the commandments applied only to the priest or only to those in agriculture, right?
Jesus fired off some quick commandments that applied to this man, and surely to us all.
Don’t commit adultery.
Do honor your father and mother.
And love your neighbor as much as your love yourself.
The man surely was pleased by the answer that Jesus gave him. I’ve done all of these since I was a kid, but he had yet another question.
What do I still lack?
The man might have been hoping that Jesus would say that he had checked all the blocks and would see him in heaven when his time on earth was completed. Jesus gave a different answer.
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
If you want to be perfect, if you want to be complete, if you truly want to please God, then…
There appears to be a basic threshold for entering eternal life and there appears to be something more—living completely to please God and bring glory to his name. Some may be content to just escape the flames of hell but others will want to be perfect, complete, given over completely to God’s glory.
Jesus wrapped up this section noting that many who are first will be last and many who are last will be first. It is as if there is an inverse relationship to treasures we claim in this world and those stored up in the world to come.
Give up all the things that you have placed ahead of God. Sell everything that you have and give the proceeds to the poor. If you really are concerned about eternity, then open a big account there.
This was surely not what this very rich man wanted to hear. Jesus charged him to turn away from his god of wealth for the one true God. That was a tough trade. We don’t get the rest of the story. All we know is that this rich man went away sad.
There is more that we could discuss about this rich young man, but we turn now to the disciples.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell 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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were overwhelmed but not speechless.
Who then can be saved?
Think about their question. It was as if the words of Jesus about a rich person applied to them. They did not consider themselves poor. OK, they didn’t have as much as the rich guy who just walked away sad, but they were not poor. They had houses, and some had families, and others had real property. Some left businesses that sustained them if not just outright profitable. The disciples considered themselves in this category of having some earthly wealth.
Sometimes we read this section and think it applies to other people. We are surely not rich. This applies to those people that we read about because they have so much money. It would be easier for a camel to make its way through the eye of a needle than for those people to enter into eternal life.
But the disciples were making application to themselves. Peter chimed in. Remember that Peter had a wife and house and even a mother-in-law.
Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Would the disciples follow Jesus for the rest of their lives and come to a dead-end? Would they be disqualified because they had material possessions? Were they too wealthy to enter into eternal life?
Jesus told them yes, you own too much to enter into the eternal life that God wants you to enjoy. On your own, you will miss the boat, but with God—and only with God—will you come to know life.
Stop judging eternal things by temporal metrics. Did the disciples not remember the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000, the healing of so many, the faith of those from whom we expect little or no faith, walking on water in a storm, and the demons who were sent packing? Quit keeping score as the world does.
Stop judging eternal things by temporal metrics.
Remember the counsel that you received earlier.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Jesus reminded his followers that his Father in heaven desires to bless them. He desires to bless us and that includes with things of material worth. We must never let these things own us or control us, but God wants to bless us. He wants to bless us more when we give up the things of this world for the ways of his kingdom.
Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, 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.
There are specific promises for the disciples and promises for all who have left material things in this world for the eternal things of the kingdom of heaven. The heavenly return is staggering—one hundred times what was given up. God is very generous.
God loves to bless you. He wants to bless you with so much that your only choice is to bless others. We can bless others materially and we can bless others with mercy. We are provisioned to bless others.
We say that you can’t out give God. Some can say this from personal experience.
Will we take what we have and use it to produce good fruit for God and his kingdom? We will freely give that which already belongs to God and in so doing bring glory to God?
When we think of what we have, what we have given up, what is subject to moth and rust, and what is stored safely in eternity, it comes down to a simple question.
Are we rich towards God?
We should not be worried about who among us can be saved. We know the answer. The answer came from God the Father full of grace and truth and we know him as our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. He desires none to perish. Our hope and our salvation are completely in him.
We know who can be saved! We are commissioned by Christ Jesus himself to take this message of salvation to the world. The question that we should dwell upon and act upon is this.
Are we rich towards God?
I pray that the answer is and always will be yes. Let’s be rich towards God.
Let’s make this an affirmation. I am rich towards God.
As we continue in this New Year seeking to do the things of God, let’s love mercy and let’s be rich towards God.