In our last look at the phrase, ITYTT, we saw Jesus recognizing those who create an unhealthy environment in the faith family. Just as there are unhealthy churches, there are spiritually unhealthy Believers. Jesus identified this in the life of a young man with great wealth. This person approached Jesus with a false belief of securing a place in heaven by his own works, asking Jesus, “…what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus’ answer took the one eager for eternal assurance back to the sacred texts, instructing him to keep the commandments (Mt. 19:17).
I find it incredulous that the young man responded by asking which commandments he should keep. Evidently, he thought there were some commandments which could be overlooked or ignored. Such a light view of scripture is detrimental to one’s spiritual condition, leading to compromise and sin. When one begins to ignore parts of scripture, one loses the whole counsel of God’s Word, which is always good for correction and reproof (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus was actually leading him to discover that it would be impossible for one to keep the entire law, for there were over eight hundred Levitical ‘laws’! It was Jesus Who fulfilled the requirements of the law, living a perfect life, and it is by faith in Him we are given entrance into Heaven.
There are many hindrances to embracing the walk of faith in Christ. One of the biggest hindrances Jesus spoke of is wealth. It seems wealth could be detrimental to one’s spiritual health. Wealth acts upon our perceptions of ourselves and others, creating a false sense of security as well as a prejudiced view of others with meager means of sustenance. Jesus challenged the world view of the rich young man by inviting him to become a disciple... after selling everything he owned. The young man could not let go of his worldly possessions and left dejected (Matthew 19:16-22). It seems he belonged to his possessions more than his possessions belonged to him.
Jesus captured the teachable moment as a lesson for his disciples when He said:
“I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll say it again – 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!” (Matthew 19:23-24)
Many Christians have used this conversation as their justification to either condemn the rich or determine never to gain wealth. The above verse does not support either view. Jesus did not say it was impossible for the rich to enter Heaven, He only said it is very hard for a rich person to enter Heaven. The difficulty is found in how tightly one holds on to worldly possessions. We get trapped in the lie that leads us to think our possessions:
Have permanence, which they do not;
Are actually valuable, which is also not true - at least, not in an eternal sense;
Signify our status, which only cheapens our view of others, leading to shallow relationships;
So many place great value on their possessions as a sign of a successful life, when success could be measured in a life’s impact or perspective. The following is an alternate way to deem the success of a person:
He has achieved success who has lived well,
laughed often and loved much;
who has enjoyed the trust of pure women,
the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
who has left the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
who has never lacked appreciation of earth's beauty
or failed to express it;
who has always looked for the best in others
and given them the best he had;
whose life was an inspiration;
whose memory is a benediction.
By Bessie A Stanley, 1905
Solomon, the son of King David, experienced great wealth in his lifetime and observed how those who live paycheck to paycheck may ‘put-on’ an aura of wealth, while others who have great means are more practical, choosing not to flaunt their wealth (Proverbs 13:7). James, the half-brother of Jesus, encouraged those rich in this world to not be proud in their wealth, but to take pride in their humiliation - one’s ability to be transparent and ‘relate-able’ to people of all ages, backgrounds, and social status (James 1:10). By living humbly, one is more apt to understand the plight of the poor and be willing to provide assistance. How is one to know the needs of others if one is never around those who have needs? It could be said the real measure of wealth is not found in how much one has acquired, but rather is found in how much one gives away.
The eternal truth, then, was given through the Lord’s explanation to His disciples, who asked: “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered: “...WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.”
Yes, even the rich can enter Heaven… just not on their terms. Heaven is open to any and all who are willing to set aside the things of earth to gain entrance to the joy of eternal life. That means setting aside the sins which enslave us; setting aside the prejudices of this world; setting aside our own conceit and pride; setting aside anything that get in the way of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Have a blessed day...