17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”
20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25 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.”
26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
— Mark 10:17-27
A couple of days ago I introduced the biblical concept of the flesh. Today I’d like to discuss the statement Jesus made, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Some people have tried to re-interpret the teaching found in Mark 10 to say that Jesus was not teaching against wealth but against the idea that we can earn our way to heaven. While I do agree that both Jesus and the Bible clearly teach that we can’t earn our way to heaven, to skip over the implications of wealth in our salvation would be a mistake.
What’s so bad about wealth?
Jesus spoke more on the subject of money than any other subject. Clearly, he was concerned about its power in the believers’ life. Let’s take a few moments to consider wealth in the context of our sinful flesh. As we saw in my recent article, the flesh cannot please God. If we are making decisions with our flesh then we will not be in obedience to God. The flesh must die and Christ must live in us (Galatians 2:20).
Now consider what wealth does. It gives us power, security, happiness (to a limited extent), control and more. The wealthier we are, the less restrictions we have in what we can or can’t do in this world. The wealthiest of the world even have a lot of influence over governments and elections. The world runs with money. On a more limited scale, which I assume is the majority of us, wealth still poses great danger to us. God is to be our master. We should seek God for all our needs. Whenever we are looking to make major decisions in our life we should be seeking God’s input. Even in minor things we need to be listening to the Holy Spirit’s voice from within us to guide us in doing right.
Indulging the Flesh
Romans 13:14 warns us as follows, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Think about this verse in the context of wealth. When we have wealth how easy is it to gratify our selfish desires? Very easy. As we do this our flesh gets stronger. Feed the beast and the beast grows. Starve the beast and it grows weaker. If we want to gain the victory over our flesh we must learn how to deny our natural desires. We must learn how to seek God and not the world. We must also remember that the entire world is under the control of the evil one and is therefore not doing what is pleasing to God. I believe that this is one of the reasons Jesus would have warned that it is very difficult for a rich man to get into heaven. A rich man can be indulging his flesh constantly.
Riches also feed us in another way. They give us status and respect which can be very addicting. Human beings all have a natural need to be respected and liked by others. If you are rich you will have the world’s version of respect. People will seek you out. Business owners will seek you out to invest in their businesses. If you are very rich politicians will seek you out to gain your backing. Your family will look at you with respect and admiration (and possibly a hand outstretched for a hand out!) All of these things feel good to our sinful flesh and they are death to our spiritual natures within us.
Walking away from all these benefits terrifies the natural human heart. Like the rich young ruler, it is most times too great of a sacrifice to make. Each one of us must take a personal inventory of the condition of our hearts. Are you willing to live in poverty? Abject poverty? Could you give away everything you own to follow Jesus? If not, wealth has you. Money is your god. If money is a god to us, we can’t expect to make it to heaven either.
For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. – Ephesians 5:5