The Problem with Being Rich

“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 19:24

North America is rich. Filthy rich. You might say to me, “Scott, I don’t have a lot of money! I have more bills than cash.” Others might say to me, “We have homeless people in most of the larger towns and in all of the cities.”

So, how could I say something so judgmental and so incorrect? Consider the following; people in North America have fail safes. People with limited income have different forms of welfare. More charity comes out of North America than from any other continent. Even homeless people have programs and support structures in place that can’t be found in third-world nations. Things are far from perfect here, but the volume of wealth in our continent is near immeasurable.

I sell this previous point to make a different one: few people in North America can say that they have no knowledge of Jesus Christ. So much of our western culture has been built on two thousand years of a faith passed on from generation to generation. The calendar is built on His birth. The two largest seasons of the year (Easter and Christmas) have His name written all over them. Thousands of non-Christian couples choose to get married in a church officiated by a member of the clergy because tradition endures.

So, it might surprise to you know that in a region of the world where Christ’s name is well known, fewer people than ever before follow Him. Is that because Jesus is a terrible person to follow? Surveys show that what little some people know of Jesus, the majority of people see Him as a positive influence on society. Turns out that while people have positive vibes about Jesus, many do not feel a need to “follow” Him. They feel they don’t need Him.

And why should they? We live in a filthy rich world. All of our needs are met, people are getting ahead, and even the ones who aren’t live better lives than in other places of the world where a cup of daily broth is a luxury. We have houses, food, cars, clothes, Internet, jewelry, restaurants, movie theatres, libraries, universities, and so on.

With lives that full and comfortable, why would we need to devote those lives to a man who promised suffering and cross bearing?

This is what the above verse is telling us. The rich man believes that all his needs and wants are met by virtue of his wealth and giving all that up for the sake of following Jesus and serving the kingdom of God seems insane. And so Jesus uses a hyperbole (gross exaggeration) to make a point about how difficult it is for the rich to let go.

A camel is big. The eye of a needle is tiny. Not only is it difficult for a camel to enter the eye of a needle, but it is also impossible. Jesus is saying however hard you think it is for the camel to go through the eye of a needle, it is harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.

The good news that Jesus brings is in the verses to follow. “With people this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Jesus is reminding His disciples that anyone can enter the kingdom of God if God paves the way for them to do so. A change of heart for a rich person—a willingness to accept a life committed to Jesus—is a miracle, but that’s what God does all the time.

So, I am not telling you that I feel we should be poorer than we are. But money NEVER lasts, and true joy is not ever found in possessions or wealth. A life submitted to Christ is where all the satisfaction and contentment are found. Lose the life, people. You’ll be glad you did.

Pastor Scott