Riches or Redemption?

Yesterday, I touched on Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler who was unwilling to give up his earthly possessions to follow Jesus. He desired heaven, but his position and wealth in this life had too strong of a hold on his heart.

As the young man turned his back and walked away, sad that he couldn’t hold onto both eternal and temporal things, Jesus took His disciples into the deeper theological implications of this encounter.

Can rich people be saved? Is it possible to have the wealth, privileges, and positions of this world and still follow Jesus?

Jesus said it would be impossible…BUT GOD!

Mark 10:23-27 – And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”

There’s a lot of speculation about this “needle and camel” analogy Jesus used. Some say it refers to a small gate in the wall around Jerusalem, which required a camel to be unloaded of all its baggage and pass through on its knees. Others say the word “camel” sounds like the word for “cable” and Jesus meant that rich people must be “unwound,” detached from their possessions, and made more flexible to enter the kingdom.

I think Jesus just meant what He said. It’s impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. It simply can’t happen…unless God intervenes and makes the impossible, possible.

It is not in us to give up all the physical comforts and security we find in our earthly treasures and possessions in exchange for spiritual blessings unless God intervenes and does His work in our hearts. Unless He touches our cold, dead hearts and pours the life-giving Spirit of God into us, regenerating us and allowing us to see with spiritual eyes, we will always revert to our human habits of self-promotion and self-preservation.

Rich people can most certainly be saved…the same way as the poorest among us find entrance into the kingdom of God! It is God’s work, not ours, and God is able to change the hardest, most selfish heart if we are willing to see things from His point of view.

Wealth comes from God. God is the one who determines who is exalted in this life with material possessions. The wealth of the world is His to distribute, and He does so at His will. He can give it, and He can take it away (1 Samuel 2:7; 1 Chronicles 29:12). Of course, Satan is the prince of this world and loves to tempt us with worldly things, just as he did Jesus in the wilderness, but he does so only as far as God allows.

Matthew 4:8-9 – Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and he said to Him, “All these things I will give you, if You fall down and worship me.”

Were there wealthy people in the Bible that gave evidence of truly following Jesus?

There are many. Abraham was rich (Genesis 13:2), Solomon was rich (1 Kings 3:13; 10:23, David was rich (1 Chronicles 29:28). Joseph of Arimathea was rich (Matthew 27:57). There are many, many more, but all came to faith not by their own works, but because they trusted God more than their wealth. And in every case, whenever any fell away from walking faithfully, it was because they were distracted by the things of this world – pleasure, wealth, position, and power.

Wealth can be a hindrance to both salvation and spiritual growth, but when we release our desire for it and entrust what we have to God for His glory and His kingdom purposes, it can be used as God intended – as a tool to advance the gospel and supply the needs of the poor.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 – He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves abundance with its income. This too is vanity.

Mark 4:19 – The worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Luke 12:15,21 – Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” … “So is the man who stores up treasures for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Luke 16:9-13 – And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the wealth of unrighteousness, so that when it fails, they will receive you into the eternal dwellings. He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

1 Timothy 6:7-10 – For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

We don’t have to look very far to find the sad stories of people around us who love money more than Jesus. Many a follower (both famous and quietly ordinary) has stumbled when faced with the choice of standing firm on Biblical truth or compromising to hold onto position, possessions, and prestige. Without God, our fleshly, carnal cravings for comfort, pleasure, and perceived security will always win over the less-than-tangible blessings and benefits of serving God with whatever wealth He entrusts to us.

How about you? What’s your attitude toward money, whether you have a little or a lot? Does it belong to you…or to God and His kingdom purposes? Hold everything in this life loosely, with hands open to God, as a steward of the King it belongs to…and salvation will be possible for you.

One thought on “Riches or Redemption?

  1. Great post! It’s a good reminder that wealth and possessions can be a hindrance to our spiritual growth and salvation, but with God’s help, anything is possible. It’s important to hold everything in this life loosely and use what we have for God’s kingdom purposes.
    Joanne Tomlinson

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