Bible Studies
Written by Jim Jordal   
Monday, 28 December 2009


By Jim Jordal

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

MATTHEW 19:23-26 (KJV)

The disciples were amazed at this teaching, since it appeared to them that Jesus was denying most rich persons entry into His kingdom. They must have had a great amount of cognitive dissonance as they sought to reconcile this bombshell with all their other instructions on how to love one another and minister to lost, lonely, alienated people, be they rich or poor. Could Jesus really be saying that rich people faced a distinct handicap in their efforts to enter God’s kingdom?

As you read what Scripture says about the arrogance, pride, cruelty and injustice practiced by the rich as a social class it’s fairly easy to reach the conclusion that God is against persons of wealth on that basis alone. There are literally hundreds of Bible verses condemning world domination systems and the wealthy, powerful people who run them, so it’s quite clear that God is displeased that such oppressive control exists within His creation.

It’s equally easy to come to the conclusion that God also has what liberation theologians call a "preferential option" for the poor. The basis for this belief again arises from the many verses expressing God’s delight in the poor, especially James 2:5 in which the apostle exclaims, "Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"

I’ve somewhat belatedly reached the conclusion that the major message of Scripture concerns God’s desire for righteousness (right relationships) and justice (fairness) for all of creation—promulgated by the law, urged by the prophets, paid for by Jesus Christ, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Personal salvation and the promises of heaven are a vital part of this deliverance, but not the only part.

God is angered at what He sees as continued, callused, deliberate oppression practiced by the rich as a class against all other people. You have only to read a little history to realize the truth of this concern. Hence Jesus’ statement that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

So is there any hope for the rich as a group? Yes, there is, but it involves certain chosen behaviors as qualifiers for membership in Christ’s kingdom. As the apostle Paul wrote to his beloved Timothy: " Charge those who are rich in this present world that they not be haughty, nor have their hope set on the uncertainty of riches, but on the living God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life" ( I Timothy 6:17-19, WEB).

So to be acceptable to God, rich people must drop whatever haughty, arrogant, demeaning, oppressive behaviors they may have toward less fortunate individuals and socioeconomic classes. They must see themselves as stewards of their God-given blessings as well as servants to the needy and suffering. They must become benefactors of the earth and its people rather than dominators and tyrants using their power to further oppress and destroy both the earth and its inhabitants.

God is not against being rich, but He is concerned with how the riches were gained and how they are used. It’s a difficult task for rich persons to drop their learned behaviors and accept the servant/steward role mandated by God, but as Jesus said to the disciples, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible."

You will know this is happening when the rich go beyond their vaunted charities into asking questions about why the poor suffer as they do. That’s advocacy, folks! And it doesn’t easily happen because the rich are willing to give generously to charity, but much less interested in doing anything that might threaten their privileged position.

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 December 2009 )