A Word to the Wealthy (That’s You!)
How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For 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 (Luke 18:24-25)
So said Jesus to the rich young ruler who, when instructed to sell his possessions and follow Christ, wilted and walked the other way.
You’ve probably heard the statistics. The income for the average American hovers around $50,000 a year, skyrocketing past every nation on the planet. According to a recent report, Americans make up half of the world’s richest one percent. You only need to bring home $32,000 a year to be ranked among the world’s wealthiest.
Have you ever tossed out expired food? Do you have a porcelain seat to “rest” on when nature calls? Do you own a flat screen (or two or three)? These are signs of privilege and, in many cases, extravagance. The list of luxuries grows longer the more we ponder: silverware, insulation, contact lenses, computers, painkillers, pillows, locked doors, running water. We’re living like kings.
And that’s what’s so terrifying.
Listen again to the Savior’s words: “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” We should be shaking in our Louis Vuitton sequin-embroidered baby goat leather boots. (Seriously, I saw an ad for that.)
But on the whole, we’re filthy rich and unafraid. The electricity goes off and we shake a fist. I’m not pointing fingers here; I’ve been known to moan when I leave home without my iPhone. I got irked last week when the microwave conked out. Too often I act like I deserve my riches, rarely thanking God for providing pretty much everything I want—and far more than I need. Anything beyond salvation is a bonus.
This is not a commentary on whether it’s unbiblical to be wealthy (or unbiblical to be poor, as the prosperity preachers have got covered). It’s a commentary about it being hard for wealthy people to enter the kingdom of God. And if you’re reading this in America, you probably fit the bill.
It’s hard because we’ve got a hundred idols between God and us. We’re too satisfied. We’re not suffering. And when we’re that comfortable, we hardly feel a need for a Savior. Or if we do, it’s a plea to rescue us, not from our sin, but from our discomfort. Theologians have sorted through other ways in which it’s hard for the rich to enter the kingdom. But that’s not my objective. Only to remind you that Jesus said it, and that it’s true. You can meditate on how it’s true for you.
Thankfully, the story in Luke 18 doesn’t end there. The disciples watch the rich man walk away and wonder, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus answers, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
The Bible never tells us if the rich young ruler ever recognized his need for the Savior, but there was hope for him. Jesus didn’t say it was impossible for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom; he said it was hard. We’d be wise to consider his words and ask ourselves, “How have I made it hard?”