555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

271. What Is Meant by "A Rich Man Shall Hardly Enter the Kingdom of God"?




To rightly understand the full significance of the passage in Matt 19-23 read Luke 18:24-27. It may be liberally interpreted: "How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter! Unless this idolatrous trust and confidence in mere wealth is overcome, they cannot enter" except by a miracle of divine grace, which changes the heart. Jesus found no fault with the young man because of his riches, since wealth, and the power and influence it brings, may be made a means of great blessing if used in the right spirit as a trust committed to our stewardship. He found, however, that the young man's wealth was to him of greater moment than his eternal welfare, since he could not grasp the great opportunity offered him by, the Master. Paul in I Cor. 6:10 also has a bearing upon the love of wealth and the hard and merciless means that are sometimes adopted to acquire it Where extortion begins may be defined by statute, but it must really be determined by the conscience, since what is a fair return in one case may be a cruel extortion in another. We must carry the Christ idea into Our business relations, and deal not only justly but generously and humanely, never making gain of another's necessity, and if with all we pile up riches, we are apt to rely on them to put us into heaven. This was the case of the young man who came to Christ. The sincerity of the young man was obvious; yet he himself felt that although he had lived a clean, moral life, keeping the letter of the law in absolute strictness, there was yet something wanting. He was not satisfied with his own blameless life. It was to find out what this hidden need was that he came to the Master, and asked, "What lack I yet?" Jesus, reading his heart, knew that his wealth stood as a barrier between him and the spiritual life he craved; that the influence and social position it gave were so dear to him that he could not bear to part with them, even to attain his ideal of a perfect life. His riches were his idol, and this the Master knew. So when Jesus in his wisdom put the test, forcing the young man to choose between riches and heaven—that he must himself cast aside the stumbling-block in his spiritual path—he failed at the crisis, turned his back upon the Master, and went away sorrowful. Jesus demanded an absolute surrender of the heart and the whole life, the placing of all in the scale as a heart offering. Good works could not save, but sacrifice of our works and our wealth brings us into a new and divine relationship as true heirs to the kingdom. See Matt. 19 '.29, in which the spiritual compensation for such sacrifice is promised. The rich young ruler came very near to the kingdom, but without entering in. His own estimate of his obedience was not justified, for if he had indeed kept the first commandment he would have placed God first, above even his much-prized earthly treasures, and he would never have gone away from Christ.