Can the rich inherit heaven?

Matthew 19:24 records Jesus as saying, “Again I tell 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.” This was Jesus’ summation of an exchange He’d just had with a rich young man. The young man had asked: “What must I do to gain eternal life?” When Jesus told him, “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, do not give false testimony, and love your neighbor as yourself.’”
“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

That’s when Jesus said it is hard for the rich to enter heaven. He was not saying wealth was bad. That rich young man wanted to follow the cash road and not the road to salvation. Abram was rich and he entered heaven. The bible records Abram (Abraham) in Genesis 13:2 “had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.” But Abraham was a friend to God (Isaiah 41:8) and God blessed Abram (Genesis 14:19). So having money isn’t the issue. Your attitude about it, is. The rich young man made money a priority rather than trusting Jesus for his needs.

This week several articles caught my eye. In attempting to discover what is driving the tea party movement, especially the success of Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally, the comment was made, “The recession is undergirding a huge amount of free-floating anxiety about everything. …[C]ertainly for all of the past three years, there has been nothing but uncertainty in the economy…”

The collapse of the economy is in my opinion one of God’s merciful warning signs to us. It might not seem like His mercy as you try to put food on the table, but for wealthy nations like the US, Britain and others, having  the extraneous things stripped away from us goes a long way to putting things back into perspective, like God as the center point of our lives instead of chasing material wealth, as the rich young man wanted to do.

In this article, “Gallup surveyed people in more than 100 countries in 2009 and found that religiosity was highly correlated to poverty. Richer countries in general are less religious.” There was one exception: The US, who, despite our wealth, still claims religion as an important part of our lives. Our economic decline has begun, however, and the hope is that as our material things are being stripped away from us that the focus will once again be centered on God. It is what the end time signs are for.

Riches delude us into thinking that we can sustain ourselves in our own power. ‘Why do I need God?’ you might think, ‘I can house, feed, and clothe myself. I have toys and leisure and plenty. I don’t need to sacrifice or give up one iota of my things. I worked hard for them.’ Well, Haggai 2:8 reminds us, “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts.” Everything you have is already God’s and He can take it away in a moment. That rich young man could not see the truth: “Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. (Proverbs 23:5) Riches are temporary, as much of the industrialized world is now discovering. Riches fly away.

Europe is having a hard time with this concept. They are at a tipping point. Will the hard economic times release them from clinging to worldly goods and start them looking up? Or will they struggle to maintain it all under their own power? The article excerpt below puts it historical perspective. I strongly recommend reading all of it.

“It seems the populace wants the best of all worlds. Someone who can do it all—keep the eurozone together, protect their shorter work weeks, ensure early retirement ages and provide the high standard of living those in the European Union have come to expect. Someone who can secure their social programs and pensions. They want someone who can step in and take charge. To accomplish this, one leader would have to quickly seize sweeping amounts of centralized power. He would have to control the social, political and military powers of Europe. He would have to unite the continent in a way not seen since the EU’s inception. Does this sound unbelievable? It should not. This is what Europe has always done. Throughout the centuries, the continent has surrendered its power to one man—one who can ensure they continue to live comfortably.”

The article continues with giving examples from history: Constantine, Justinian, Charlemagne, Otto The Great, Charles V, Garibaldi united Italy, then came Napoleon, Mussolini and Hitler. Europe is staggering once again under economic decline and soon the choice will come. Trust Jesus, or trust a charismatic figure issuing flattering promises and sly words that tickle the ears. We know the outcome. On a grand scale they will clamor for status quo and the empty promises of the antichrist.

During the Tribulation (Time of Jacob’s Trouble) those who still insist on clinging to their money and ‘things’ will realize their bad trade. James 5:1 warns: “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you…”

Do not take the cash road, for it is broad and leads to destruction. Take the narrow way: look where it leads! True wealth is a growing Holy Spirit inside you. Real riches are the joy in serving a risen Lord. Even those believers who are already wealthy have an admonishment: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;” (1 Timothy 6:17). Many wealthy folks already have discovered how quickly their stock portfolios and retirement funds shrunk in a day, a week, a year. It all comes from the blessing of God and He takes it away also. Trust not in earthly belongings, they are so much clutter and distraction from the purity of the narrow way. If you are wealthy, great, just remember to Whom it all really belongs. If you are not wealthy on this earth, then remember that your riches are stored up in heaven. (Mt 6:19-20)

Jesus is good to us and mighty to save. And the gifts do not end there, but begin. He gives us a place to live for eternity. He gives peace, joy, and wealth beyond measure. I am glad I traded worldly things for His promises. There is no better retirement fund!