CAMELS, NEEDLES, WEALTH
Mighty God, when I think of your gifts of nature and grace, I gladly and joyfully give praise and thanks to you.
Read MATTHEW 19:16–30
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
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,’[a] and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]”
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[c] 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.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘O Divine Master … in giving we receive; in pardoning we are pardoned; and in dying we are born to eternal life. Amen.’1
Jesus is approached by a young wealthy man asking how to enter the eternal kingdom. If he had heard Jesus’ previous words (v 14), he would know. Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, specifying the relational laws (six to nine of the Decalogue) and adding, after them, the fifth commandment, to honor one’s parents, followed by the summary of Jewish ethical belief, urging neighborly love.2 These last two commandments expose what this man lacks. The placement of the fifth suggests that he has inherited his wealth. The last alerts readers to his problem: he loves himself but does not truly love his needy neighbors. His lack of self-awareness is seen in his arrogant claim to have kept them all. Like many of us, he justifies himself and is blind to his failure.
Still, the man does ask what he lacks, probably expecting to hear ‘nothing’. Jesus commands him to sell everything and give to the poor, promising him heavenly reward. He must then follow Jesus. In that day, this was a tough ask. Wealth was corporately owned and to sell it, give away the proceeds and follow Jesus would see the man’s family lose wealth and honor. This is too much for him and he leaves, sorrowful. He chooses family over God’s call.3
Jesus then teaches that it is easier to squeeze a 500 kg dromedary through a needle’s eye than for a rich person to enter God’s reign. Yet, thankfully, with God, it is possible. The disciples have done what is required and will be rewarded. This is good news for all of us who are wealthy – but will we camels allow ourselves to be squeezed through a needle’s eye, divesting ourselves of our wealth on behalf of the needs of others?
Take some time to consider what is yours. Ask God to guide you in how to use it for his kingdom and for those in need. Respond.
Lord, your grace and love is amazing. You are not bound by my limited understanding, so I thank you for the wideness of your kingdom.
1 Francis of Assisi, adapted 2 Exod 20:12–16; Lev 19:18 3 Cf Matt 8:21,22
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