Wednesday 09 November 2016

Bible Book:

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.’” (v. 23)

Matthew 19:23-26 Wednesday 9 November 2016

Psalm: Psalm 44:1-8


As Jesus travels to Jerusalem to die, a rich young man has justbeen challenged about how he uses his possessions (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus uses the opportunityto teach his disciples about the danger of wealth.

The word we translate as 'kingdom' - 'basilea' - actually means"sovereignty' or 'power'. In the United Kingdom a similar turn ofspeech is used when the power of the State is spoken of as 'theCrown'; in the United States, this power is described as 'thePeople'. This is helpful to get to the nub of the issue here. It isnot a place that the rich person finds it hard to enter (or even amythical gate into Jerusalem too small for camels to enter) but asovereign rule. The issue that Jesus is discussing is what powersomeone submits to. When he says that a rich person finds it hardto enter the 'sovereignty of heaven' he implies that they are undersomeothersovereignty. In other words, do they submit to the powerof God's will, or to the power of riches? (In the parallel passagein the Gospel of Mark's version of these events - Mark10:24 - some Bible manuscripts have Jesus speaking about 'thosewho trust in riches'). Ordinarily we might assume that someone whohas riches has power. Billionaires seem to be able to do what theywant without fear of reproach! Yet it seems that Jesus turns theconcept around: it is not the rich who have the power to use wealthfor their own ends, but the wealth that exercises power over therich. They are trapped by their own money!

The disciples ask who can be saved (verse 25). After all,popular Jewish belief at the time saw wealth as a sign of God'sblessing. (Some people today might view it in the same way). Howcould it be that the rich were not blessed by God after all? Theydon't understand what Jesus is saying!

In verse 26, when Jesus says all things are possible for God(echoing the words which accompanied the promise of children toAbraham (Genesis 18:14) and Elizabeth (Luke1:37)) he is not saying that God can make it possible for therich to keep their wealth and enter the sovereignty of God. Rather,he is saying that God can make it possible for the rich to renouncethe power that wealth has over them - even the wealth itself - inorder for them to enter God's sovereignty.

To Ponder

  • How much are the rich and famous in today's world trapped bytheir wealth and fame? How much more freedom do unknown people ofaverage income actually have to choose to go and do as they please?Is it easier to serve God without being rich and famous? Why or whynot?
  • Wealth is a relative concept. Would you see yourself as rich?Who might disagree with you?
  • How has the desire to maintain your standard of livingrestricted your ability to offer yourself to God? How has wealthexercised power over you? What else might you have submitted torather than God's sovereignty?
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