And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 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.” And they were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” (Mark 10:23-26, NASB)
This reading is taken from March 10th in our devotional Bible; which actually translates the original Greek in verse 23, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (HCSB, underline mine). The disciples were astonished because it was the more affluent in society who had greater access to training in the scriptures, the ability to contribute more to the temple, and the attention of the leaders within Judaism.
Jesus shifts their normal paradigm of thinking by generalizing His statement even further to entrance for anyone into the kingdom; “…how hard it is to enter.” He then focuses again upon the wealthy, “…easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter…”
This dialogue of Jesus follows His encounter with the rich young ruler; an individual who sincerely comes to Jesus seeking eternal life. Leaving off the first commandment, Jesus reassures the wealthy inquisitor to keep the specific commands directed toward other people; in other words, “…do unto others.” This appeals to the fleshly, religious nature within the young man (indeed, within every person) and he genuinely believes he has kept these directives from his youth. Remarkably, even believing he has maintained what his religion requires of him, he is still empty inside; hence his request of Jesus for eternal life. Aware of his real need, Jesus challenges the aristocrat with one more demand; he must sell all he has, give it to the poor, and follow Him. A careful examination of the appeal will show that Jesus is holding the young ruler to the standard of the first commandment, “…have no other gods before God.”
I do see hope for the young man. For in his disposition, sincerity is revealed. He goes away from Jesus sorrowful, grieving because he had many things. He did not leave offended or indignant; he left with anguish which could haunt him until he might have returned!
In all of this, Jesus is breaking the perceived mold of a human being’s religious nature that one has to “do” something to earn God’s merit. The fallen, sinful individual is naturally bent toward relying upon them self to find peace and rest in life; in essence being their own god. Jesus point here is that this is especially true regarding the wealthy because they view themselves as the owner and earner of the capital they oversee. Consequently, the reason I like the HCSB rendering of verse 23 above, “…those who have wealth;” is because it speaks toward someone who imagines the resources bestowed upon them as their own; from their own hand. “Wealth” can fit many categories that point back to a person’s reliance upon self; an endeavor reflecting Satan’s temptation of Eve in the garden to be like God.
The lesson for you and me is found in our perspective of the universe God has made. Do we “have wealth;” or does the “wealth” under our care come from the Gracious Hand of God? Who, or what, is the real god in our lives? Regarding the question of the disciples, “Who can be saved?” The person who views their life and everything in it as a magnificent gift from the Sovereign Lord will be saved.
Is this hard to hear? Is it too difficult to follow? If you answered yes, I completely agree with you. I only hope you do not go away from this word angry or offended. If you are grieved by the hardness of your heart, then there is truly hope you understand the gravity of your plight. Thank God for the cross and resurrection of Jesus. For we love, and can follow, because He first loved us!