The Plight Of The Overprivileged
A daily devotion for January 19th
13People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.
17As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
18"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good—except God alone. 19You know the commandments: 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.'"
20"Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
22At this the man's face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
28Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
29"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first."
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 (Mark 10:25).
This is a remarkable statement that Jesus makes. In it He highlights the terrible danger of affluence. This, He says, does horrible things to the soul. Most of us, if not openly then at least secretly, are envious of rich people. We wish we had money. And yet, if we really understood what Jesus is saying, we would not feel that way. We would feel sorry for them. We think them overprivileged; Jesus says they are underprivileged. They are deprived people. There is so much they are robbed of by the things they have. So Jesus goes on to point out the terrible danger of affluence.
It is impossible, He says,
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Let us not minimize His language here. Some commentators attempt to soften this by explaining that the
eye of a needle referred to a tiny gate, about four feet high, located in the wall of Jerusalem, and that by squirming and wriggling a camel could conceivably get through it. I do not see much evidence to support that view. I think Jesus meant a literal needle. Try to imagine a huge, humpy camel trying to squeeze through a needle's eye. Jesus is saying to them,
Why is it impossible? It is clear from the context that riches tend to destroy the qualities you must have in order to enter the kingdom of God. They destroy the childlikeness of life. Affluence creates a concern for secondary values. Rich people are not worried about where their next meal is coming from; they worry about what it will taste like. They are not concerned about whether they worship God rightly but whether they are in a beautiful building. Riches transfer their concern from the necessary things to secondary.
Furthermore, affluence destroys teachability because it creates a false sense of power and authority. Those who have power because of their money begin to feel that they ought to be the teacher. They do not need to learn--they already know everything! This makes for arrogance, indifference, and for insensitivity to the needs of others, for isolation and a lack of concern.
Finally, affluence gradually enslaves those who are attached to it. It builds an increasing dependence upon comfort, upon
the good life, until people reach a point where they cannot give it up. They are owned by their possessions. Like to a habit-forming drug, they become addicted to things, addicted to comfort and ease. Therefore it destroys the responsive spirit that is ready and willing to follow truth whenever it is revealed.
That is why Jesus said it is impossible--with people. But not with God. This is the note of grace. God can break that enslavement to riches. Isn't it interesting that if a rich person does come to Christ, he or she must come in exactly the same way as the poorest bum on skid row! Rich people have to acknowledge their complete and utter need and come as guilty sinners, wretched and miserable, and receive the gift of life at the hands of Jesus from the cross. There is no other way to come.
Lord, let me be ready to give up my possessions and put them back into Your hands.
Life Application: Are we alert to the possible corrosive effect of being owned by our possessions? Is our attitude one of ready willingness to give them up and back into His hands?
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Daily Devotion © 2006 by Ray Stedman Ministries. For permission to use this content, please review www.RayStedman.org/permissions. Subject to permission policy, all rights reserved.