Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 121 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Matthew 19 today and our focus is on Why Did Jesus Tell the Rich Young Ruler to Give Away His Possessions?. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in Jharkhand, India, parts unknown, Russia, Nova Scotia, Canada, Salinas, California, Scranton, Pennsylvania, Phoenix, Arizona and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Thanks for listening!  Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more– Click here for our Bible 2021 reading plan\

Happy weekend, friends. We are at the place in Matthew where there are many great teachings of Jesus that we could spend whole shows covering and discussing. Our focus today is the challenging statement that Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler, but two brief notes before we get there.

First, a reminder of yesterday’s message from Jesus about humility and little children:

14 Jesus said, “Leave the little children alone, and don’t try to keep them from coming to me, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14

May we remember that greatness in God’s kingdom is not about wealth, or looks, or power, or charisma, or position, or possessions, or intelligence, but it is about serving and being humble like a child. The Kingdom of Heaven does not belong to those whom are considered great in the world’s eyes, but to those who are lowly – and those who serve.

Second, Jesus says one of His most famous sayings in this passage: 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

You might have heard various preachers attempt to explain what Jesus meant by this statement – saying that Jerusalem had a ‘needle’ gate that camels had to stoop low to get through, with the meaning being that the only way for rich people to be saved is to humble themselves. That’s cute, and it’ll preach, as they say, but it is entirely inaccurate – Jerusalem had no needle gate. Jesus was saying that it was hard – nigh impossible from a human perspective – for a rich person to get saved. This is why the disciples marveled at what Jesus said – they were astonished. Jesus answered their surprise by saying, ““With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,”” indicating that God can and will save those who are rich. What Jesus is saying is interesting, however – it is apparently harder for rich people to be saved. Why? How do riches separate us from God? Let’s read the text with that question in the back of our mind, paying special attention to what Jesus says to the rich young ruler.

Money is useful and helpful, and many of the great people of the Bible were rich – Job, Abraham, King David, Jacob, etc. But money, as they say, isn’t everything, and there has to be a reason that Jesus told the rich young ruler to FIRST sell his possessions. Here’s Tony Evans to begin to explain the dangers of the love of money:

You see money can buy you a bed but it can’t buy you sleep. Money can buy you books but it can’t buy you brains. Money can buy you food but it can’t give you an appetite. Money can buy you finery but it can’t give you beauty. It can buy you a house but too many of us know it can’t give you a home. Medicine yes, health no. Amusements yes, happiness no. It can buy you companions in won’t give you true friends. You can buy flattery with money but you can’t buy respect. They were paying a high price tag for their materialism. Ecclesiastes 5:13 says, “I have seen men hoard riches but only to their detriment.” The cost of materialism he says is that God works against you. In fact, it costs some people their eternal destiny. You remember the rich young ruler. His love for money cost him heaven. You remember Lazarus and rich man in Luke 16. Says Lazarus in his poverty went to heaven. The rich man in his wealth went to hell. And when he got hell he asks Lazarus, the poor man, for one drop of water to cool his tongue in the heat of these flames. And Abraham said to the rich man, when you were on earth you enjoyed the finer things of life but now the role is flipped. You were so busy enjoying earth you never got around to heaven. And it costs you eternity. Not because you had it but because it blinded you to something more important. There is a high price tag for materialism. Please don’t misunderstand me it’s not a high price tag to having money. There’s a high price tag to having the wrong attitude about the money that you have or want to get. Because when gold replaces God there is a price tag you must pay.

Anthony T. Evans, “‘The Powerlessness of Riches,’” in Tony Evans Sermon Archive (Tony Evans, 1997), Jas 5:1–6.

So Evans rightly says that it is not money, but the love of money, or materialism, that is a great danger. And it would appear that having a lot of money makes one more at risk of materialism. That said, it is certainly possible for a rich man to use money wisely and generously, and not have an idolatrous relationship with money, and it is also certainly possible for a poor man to absolutely idolize money and be caught up in materialism.

And here’s J.I. Packer with one more observation on wealth and riches:

When the rich young ruler turned away, Jesus commented: ‘How hard it is for rich people to enter the kingdom of God … What is impossible for man is possible for God’ (Lk. 19:24–27). This biblical perspective confronts the view that the poor need the generosity of the wealthy as endless receivers of aid. Rather the wealthy need the poor, to learn from them the nature and meaning of the deliverance God brings to both. The basis of the sharing is when those separated by distorted relationships discover that they both equally need each other. Only Jesus Christ can bring this about. ‘Accept one another as Christ has accepted you’ (Rom. 15:7).

Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 524.

Bible Memory verse for the month of May: Matthew 28:18-20  18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

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