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Why is It So Difficult for a Rich Man to Enter the Kingdom of God?

by Tom Stewart
July 30, 1999

Jesus' response to the rich young man's question, "What good thing shall I do, that I may have Eternal Life?" (Matthew 19:16), was to probe him with the stringent demands of the Moral Law-- not to justify him, but to demonstrate his lack. "If thou wilt enter into Life, keep the Commandments" (19:17). "Which?" asked the young man. Jesus said,

"Thou shalt do no murder,

Thou shalt not commit adultery,

Thou shalt not steal,

Thou shalt not bear false witness,

Honour thy father and thy mother: and,

Thou shalt Love thy neighbour as thyself"

Everything seemed to be in order, so the young man replied, "All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?" (19:20). Knowing "what was in man" (John 2:25), Jesus offered the rich young man the opportunity to receive Eternal Life. Jesus said unto him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in Heaven: and come and follow Me" (19:21). Upon hearing that, the young man "went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions" (19:22).

The LORD Jesus then pronounced that a
"rich man shall hardly [literally, with difficulty] enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 19:23). In the Gospel of Mark's account of the same story, Jesus proceeded to enlighten His disciples on the reason for that difficulty. "Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!" (Mark 10:24). So the "trust in riches" or the "love of money" (1Timothy 6:10) is the obstacle for these from entering into Eternal Life. In fact, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24). This flabbergasted the disciples. "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?" (19:25). Demonstrating that the Everlasting God has no prejudice against those with riches to inherit Eternal Life, Jesus said, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (19:26).

The question is raised, "If riches are such an obstacle to entering the Kingdom of God, then why does God bestow those riches on His people?"
"If riches increase, set not your heart upon them" (Psalm 62:10). God does bless with riches; and still, there are "not many mighty" (1Corinthians 1:26) in power and wealth, who know the LORD. "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it" (Proverbs 10:22). The issue of riches for the Saints is a matter of continuing to trust in God, while being allowed the opportunity of greater usefulness and service to the LORD, i.e., "And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto Him of their substance" (Luke 8:3). "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the Living God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy" (1Timothy 6:17). In answer to the question, "Why does God bestow those riches on His people?", because He designs to bless-- as he did Abraham, i.e., "And the LORD hath blessed my master greatly; and he is become great: and he hath given him flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses" (Genesis 24:35)-- and to test-- as He did Solomon, i.e., "Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward Heaven" (Proverbs 23:5).

And finally, "Why is it so difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God?"
"And having food and raiment let us be therewith content" (1Timothy 6:8). In spite of all the problems riches produce, the world seeks riches to insulate from the pain that is in the world. "But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (6:9). The Almighty intended pain to be the means of gaining our attention to draw us to Himself in faith and dependence. "Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life" (Genesis 3:17). Our LORD, in His humanity, demonstrated that pain and suffering has a sanctifying aspect, though He could have had the assistance of "more than twelve legions of angels" (Matthew 26:53) at any time. "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). The True Saints react to pain and suffering by increasing their faith and confidence in God, i.e., "But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Peter 3:18), while the world responds to the same pain and suffering by seeking the insulation of riches. "19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God" (Luke 12:19-21).

Monkeys are trapped with a snare that allows them only enough of a hole to reach into a tethered coconut to grab the bait. Their reflex is a refusal to release the bait, which prevents them from freeing their hand from the confines of the coconut's narrow hole; and thus, they are brought into captivity.
"But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition" (1Timothy 6:9). Men are often no more thoughtful than monkeys. "But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his Salvation" (Deuteronomy 32:15). Oh, if we would only learn to "labour not to be rich" (Proverbs 23:4)!

Instead of responding to our pain and suffering with the reflexive action of seeking the security of riches, we ought to do as the Apostle Paul.
"9 And He said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in [your] weakness. Most gladly therefore will I [Paul] rather glory in my infirmities, that the Power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong" (2Corinthians 12:9-10). We, as True Saints, ought to seek to learn of Christ through poverty or riches. "For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our LORD and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2Peter 1:11).

May the LORD bless you with the
"True Riches" (Luke 16:11).


Tom Stewart

[Please see our articles, "No More Pain" ---New Window and "Exceeding Great and Precious Promises" ---New Window , for more on the topic of Christian sanctification.]


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