Bible Reading: Matthew 19
Matthew 19:23-26, “And Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person 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 a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’.”
He was young, wealthy, and powerful, but spiritually impoverished. Aware of a deficiency he made his way to Jesus. His question? “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). He desired “eternal life”—his youth, possessions, and power still left him hungering for something more.
His question was problematic. The man was on the wrong course. No doings of man, no matter how impressive, can ever measure up to God’s holy standard. God alone is good (Luke 18:19; Romans 3:12). The best of man’s religious efforts fall short (Romans 3:23).
Jesus worked to reveal the man’s shortcomings by issuing a challenge. “Keep the commandments,” He said (Matthew 19:17). “Which ones?” asked the man? Jesus recited for him the second half of the Decalogue—the social division of the Ten Commandments—and added the Leviticus 19:18 requirement to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:18-19).
The young man responded by claiming that he had kept all these. Did he really think so? He must have. But he was mistaken. Jesus knew the truth and responded: “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). “Do you really love your neighbor as yourself?” Are you willing to sacrifice all that you have for their sake? Salvation by good works will demand this and more. Jesus was not suggesting that salvation can be earned, he was revealing to the man the hopelessness of his condition. The young man had much property—he was unwilling to give that up. The demands of salvation by works were too great. Man has neither the will or ability to do all that is required by the Law.
He did not do what Jesus demanded, but instead went away “grieving” (Matthew 19:22). The course he had chosen came to a bad end. It would have been better if he had come to Jesus in humility and in faith (in the one alone who is good) –as a child would have come (Matthew 19:13-15; 18:3-4; Mark 10:15). But he came attesting to his good works, and they were inadequate. It was a sad end to the story, at least as far as the rich young ruler was concerned. But Jesus used the occasion to teach His disciples some important things. He said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, 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” (Matthew 19:23-24).
The Jews of Jesus’ day perceived riches to be indicative of a man’s piety and God’s blessing upon him. So, the disciples were no doubt surprised by what they heard. The reality is that the rich and poor alike must come to God as spiritual paupers. But it is harder for the rich to do that, inasmuch as wealth deceives as to sense of need (Proverbs 30:7-9; 1 Timothy 6:17).
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! How hard is it for a camel to go through the eye of a needle? I’ve seen camels. They are really large and have big humps. The eye of a needle is incredibly small. To get a camel through the eye of a needle is not just difficult, it’s impossible.
Thank God that what is impossible with man is possible with God (Matthew 19:26). The Spirit is able to make us aware of our need and true condition before Him (i.e., spiritual bankruptcy; John 16:8; Matthew 5:3). It is only then that we realize that there is nothing that we can do— “not the labor of my hands can fulfill the law’s demands.” Helpless and contrite we are directed to the one who became poor, that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). True and lasting riches—bound up in Him alone– are then bestowed on those who sincerely trust in Him (1 Timothy 6:17-19). Thank God that He is able to do the impossible. Salvation is a miracle of God’s grace for rich and poor alike—but especially for the rich.
“By His doing you are in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:30).
My Father is omnipotent, and that you can´t deny;
A God of might and miracles, ´tis written in the sky.
It took a miracle to put the stars in place;
It took a miracle to hang the world in space.
But when he saved my soul,
Cleansed and made me whole,
It took a miracle of love and grace.