Rich or Poor – Same Requirements
By Dennis Huebshman
Matthew 19:24 gives us the famous line, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” One would begin to believe with a remark by the Savior on this, He was against people having wealth. That’s just not true.
Going back to V. 16 in the same chapter, we’re told a young man approached Jesus and asked, “What must I do to gain eternal life?”. Jesus went through several commandments with the young man who assured Jesus he had obeyed all those laws. Then Jesus threw in the clincher by telling him to sell his possessions and give the money to the poor and to follow Him. The young man walked away sorrowfully because he had great wealth. The problem was not that he was wealthy, but his wealth was more important to him than his eternal soul.
Remember the story in Luke 12: 16-21 about the rich man who bragged to himself that he was very wealthy and was going to tear down his old barns and build new and bigger ones to hold his grain and then eat, drink and be merry enjoying his great fortune. Jesus said the man died that night and his wealth was given to others. Just how much of his wealth was he able to take with him – nothing! He had stored up riches for himself, but was not rich toward God.
There are some positive stories about wealthy people. In Luke 19:2, we’re told of a man named Zacchaeus who was a tax collector. In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were hated by the citizens because they were known to collect more than was due the Roman Empire to keep for themselves. The Romans didn’t care as long as the correct amount was given to them. Apparently, before meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus had collected above and beyond but was so overwhelmed with the Savior that he had a divine conversion. Before Jesus left his house, Zacchaeus told Him he would give ½ of his possessions to the poor and would repay any who had been overcharged up to four-fold of what he had taken. Jesus remarked that true Salvation had come to that home that day.
Jesus had occasion to go to the home of another tax collector to dine and as a result Matthew became one of the 12 apostles. Again, though he had wealth, his heart was turned to the Savior.
Jesus had a special place in His heart for the poor, but that didn’t give excuse for them to not accept the Father and Him. He gave the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to make a point of the extremes. (Luke 16: 19-31) The rich man was totally absorbed in his wealth and lived life to the fullest. Lazarus was severely poor and would beg for just the scraps from the rich man’s table. Apparently though, Lazarus loved God despite his condition and when he died he was taken to the “bosom of Abraham” or a place of rest and comfort. (Note: after Calvary, believer’s souls go to the presence of Jesus – Philippians 1:23) The rich man died as well, and his soul went to a place of torment. He would be there until the Great White Throne Judgment mentioned in Revelation 20. He selfishly had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle without regard for anyone else and as the Savior said on several occasions, he had his reward on this earth. On a personal note, I believe this may have actually referred to a real situation as Jesus mentioned a name – Lazarus – in this parable and no names in any of the others. We will find out for sure when we all get Home!
Jesus had an encounter with another prosperous person which was covered in Matthew 8: 5-13 and Luke 7: 2-10. The person was a Roman Centurion who had a sick servant in Capernaum. He sent for Jesus and asked for the servant to be healed. As Jesus was going to the Centurion’s home, he sent word to the Savior that he was unworthy for Jesus to enter his home, but if Jesus would only say the word, he believed the servant would be healed. Some Jewish leaders told Jesus the Centurion was a friend of the Jews and had even built them a synagogue. Jesus remarked about the true faith of the Centurion, and the servant was healed as he had asked. This is an example of someone of wealth and power that had compassion on one in servitude.
There are numerous stories about rich and poor people and many of them had to do with the religious leaders of the day. Jesus made it known it was not the amount of wealth or power or even the severity of the poor that will count at the end. What will matter is whether or not Glory and Praise is given to the Lord and whether or not the person accepted Jesus. God does not see one’s riches of this earth, but just where does the person’s heart lie.
I have known some very wealthy people who have shared with others and not for self-praise but because they had a loving heart toward others and they honored God. Some of them would get upset if accolades were made about their charity. They didn’t want any glory for themselves. This is a rare trait as Jesus had said. There are those who make donations and expect to be given special recognition for what they have done, and as Jesus said they have their reward here in the eyes of man. Yes, it’s admirable for what they have done, but if it weren’t for the Father, they wouldn’t have the wealth to begin with. Sometimes He gives just to see what will be done with it. As Jesus said, it’s difficult for wealthy people to get past the things of this earth, but those who do are a blessing in the eyes of the Father.
As for the poor, life is definitely difficult but as Paul said in all things give thanks and talk to the Lord. Philippians 4: 6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead in every situation through prayer and petition with thanksgiving tell your request to God. And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When you have very little or nothing at all, it’s hard to be thankful, but the point is, this life is not our final home. What lies ahead will be more than worth anything here for those who are of the Lord Jesus.
We’re all only visitors here and for just a brief time. In human eyes, 100 years may seem like a lot if someone lives that long, but to the Father it’s less than a blink of the eye. Our treasure lies in the eternal life ahead and cannot even be measured by earth’s standards. One can own the entire world but if they end up in the Lake of Fire what good was it? We need to be constantly thanking the Father for what we have because we don’t know the minute or day that we will be leaving this planet.
It’s really worth a self-exam no matter who you are as to your relationship with Jesus. He will turn no one down that truly wants to have Him in their lives, but He will not force anyone to come to Him. If you will call on Him today, and truly mean that you believe in Him, you will be guaranteed a seat at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and cancel your reservation for the Great White Throne. God does not want you to fail and does not want to see you end up in the Lake of Fire, but is loving enough to allow you to have a free choice about this. Please make the right decision today.