Today we are looking at the story of Jesus and “the rich young ruler” from the Gospel according to Matthew.
16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’[c] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[d]”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 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.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 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.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 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. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. —Matthew 19:16-30 NIV accessed from BibleGateway.com
This is another one of those teachings of Jesus no one wants to hear. After all we all want to be materially rich, don’t we? Some churches even teach that God wants you to be rich. Not achieving material wealth may even be seen as a sign of spiritual “failure.”
But what did Jesus have to say about material riches? He said that it is very difficult to follow him and to enter the Kingdom of God because you have to give up everything. Not only material wealth and possessions but also earthly relationships and responsibilities. Why? Because these things not only distract us from our relationship and dependence on God, they may even replace it. When this happens all those other things become our god to be not only sought after but worshiped.
Verse 30 is the clincher in this whole teaching. “But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.” Those who work to claw their way to the top may find that in the end they have nothing spiritually. Likewise those who are poor in the eyes of the world may have amassed great spiritual riches.
This is an area where I believe many churches have been led astray and have led their followers astray. Throughout the gospels we see Jesus’ disdain of the rich. Jesus did not teach the “gospel of wealth.”
Dig a Little Deeper: Following Jesus is costly. It may require you to give up your money, your possessions, your job, even relationships. Are you ready to do this?