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Why It’s Hard for the Rich to Enter the Kingdom

By Rev. Phillip Leo, Church Communications Director

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23, NIV)

Check your sermon file on this passage; my guess is you’ve got at least a few. That’s because preachers have to wrestle with this hard saying of Jesus — especially in a capitalistic context.

Here’s my granular take on why Jesus says it’s so hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

First, Jesus’ statement has to be taken at face value. Yes, the idea of pulling a camel through the eye of a needle is hyperbole, but the truth behind it isn’t. It IS hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven.

But God’s Kingdom isn’t stacked against the rich. Instead, Jesus’ saying is merely building on what He taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, NIV)

By definition the wealthy have more money, which means there can be a greater struggle reconciling their devotion to either the Crown of heaven or the crown of every earth-bound kingdom — cash.

But whether rich or poor, obedience is always the gold standard for identifying the heart’s devotion. Which is why, even after the rich young ruler insists he’s kept all the commandments, Jesus still presses him further. “Sell your possessions and give to the poor,” says Jesus. “Then come follow me.” (Matthew 19:21, NIV)

No words were needed to explain which crown sat atop the man’s heart. He simply walked away from Jesus.

How are the wealthy saved? For that matter, how is anyone saved?

The impulse to chase wealth’s majesty runs deep in all of us. How does one switch from a heart that races for the next lottery jackpot to one that races for God? What resources can be employed? What does it take to engineer a changed heart?

If entry into the Kingdom of God hinges on one’s devotion then it’s only Jesus who can serve as door keeper. His perfect obedience to the Father took Him to Calvary’s cross and then to heaven’s throne.

What good thing must one do to get eternal life? Only look to Jesus, whose steadfast love and faithfulness endure forever. His way is the only path for a heart that beats for God alone.