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Is it Impossible for a Rich Man to Enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

"I have a few questions about Matthew 19. Why does Jesus rebuke the rich man for calling him good, and then say that there in none good except for God? Also, why does he say that a rich man shall hardly enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Does this mean that rich people cannot go to heaven, and aren't we all rich compared to other countries?", (Question from Diane Beloncik).

Regarding your first question, Jesus knew that this man did not perceive him to be the Messiah. There were only a few individuals who knew who Jesus really was, because God had revealed this thing to them, "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 16.15-17 KJV bible). So this man approaches Jesus, not as Messiah, but as a religious authority, and within that capacity bestows an improper title upon him, saying, "...Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" (Matthew 19.26 KJV bible). It would be like one of us addressing a religious leader as, "Oh holy reverend...". One should never glorify or exalt a religious leader, but simply offer the respect and decency with which you would want to be treated. If they are really serving God, then flattery would make them uncomfortable anyways, which is why Jesus corrects this one.

Regarding the second question, let's take a closer look at what happens in Matthew 19. A man approaches Christ, and asks him what he must do to obtain eternal life, which is really akin to asking for salvation. Jesus instructs him to obey the written commandments (they are under the written Law at this time), and then says something unusual. He offers the man the opportunity to sell what he has, have treasure in heaven, and come and follow him. There are many so-called once in a lifetime opportunities (such as maybe getting to meet some bozo celebrity), but only one opportunity that really matters, and this man has been given it. Yet, even though Jesus instructs this man on what he must do to be complete, he is not willing to do it, because he can't accept that he has to leave behind his great wealth and possessions in order to follow Christ.

Jesus remarks to his disciples, "...Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly [or with difficulty] enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19.23 KJV bible). The rich man's wealth acts as an impediment to him entering the Kingdom. Having been given the opportunity to partake of eternal life in Christ, his coveting of wealth holds him back. This is why it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven, because the wealth presents a distraction and a false security that can obstruct one from focusing on the things of God, "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Luke 12.34 KJV bible). This doesn't mean that rich people have to literally sell of all their worldy possessions in order to follow Christ, because Christ is no longer with us in flesh. A lot of times, the ones who tell you this are only interested in taking your possessions from you. However, in this instance the rich man has to leave behind all his great possessions to join and serve Christ, and he isn't willing to do so.

Then Jesus goes on to say, "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 (Matthew 19.24 KJV bible)". Alot has been made of this statement, and what it is talking about. A common tradition is that "going through the eye of the needle" is an ancient expression that refers to entering a city by its narrow side gate. A camel would have to unload its cargo and crouch down to enter this side port. Makes a nice story, but the problem is that there really isn't any historical evidence to back up the existence of such an expression. Most likely, Jesus simply means what his statement implies; that it is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. This is why his apostles remark, "Who then can be saved?". If the rich are excluded, then what about everyone else, can they be saved? Jesus then goes to the heart of the matter, and speaking of the nature of salvation he says, "...With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19.26 KJV bible). It is not by right, or by effort, but by God's grace alone that one (whether rich or poor) can enter into the Kingdom of God. So whether rich or poor, if you are willing to heed the Saviour's call he will strengthen you so that you can pass through the eye of the needle, and have eternal life in him, "Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it" (Matthew 7.14 KJV bible).

So does the impediment of wealth affect us more, because America is a wealthy nation? I don't know if our increased standard of living can be understood as being great possessions or wealth, as in the case of the rich man. How many of us if we sold everything we had would have that much? American's are very hardworking people, and while we our blessed, many have to work very hard to make ends meet. However, I would say that in all of our lives there are distractions and forms of idolatry that we must struggle against in order to set our minds on the things of God. It is required that we give up these things because they hinder us from following Christ on a spiritual level. This is especially true in our very materialistic and self-indulgent society, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3.5 KJV bible).


Miguel _      01 Dec 2011, 04:57

Amen thank you for that word.
How hard it is for us who have worldly possessions to follow God. My phone my computer my music my work my job my kids my family my mp3 player my shows my feelings. we say we give all I say here God take all but if God were to ask for any of it who wouldn't struggle, but that's what it takes to follow him. Truth be told I spend more time communicating over my phone than I do with God.
(Help me Lord to give it up for you,whatever you want LORD)

Doug Buckley      03 Dec 2011, 15:59

Thanks Miguel, we can have other things in our lives, but Jesus has to come first before anyone or anything else. Money and wealth make it harder to put Jesus first, because they give us more ways to spend our time and we can have things we want, "Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth" (Luke 12.15 KJV bible). It is harder for a rich man to serve the Kingdom.

Matt. Rolle      25 Feb 2012, 09:15

Amen! this word is so true. Sometimes in life we as people will put eartly things or you can say things of the world , before God. I can agree to that to. But we also cant forget that God has all power and that he is the only God. All things should come after him. He wants us all to seek him lst. But we all have our times when we give a little more of our time and energy to other things of the world. But the point of it all is those certain things that he admire or partake in going to heal or deliver us if we come down with any phyical or mental issues with the mind or body? What would we seek or look up to then?

Doug Buckley      27 Feb 2012, 17:11

Hi Matt, that's a good point, because God is eternal and righteous and our salvation, so its a betrayal to put worldly things before him and his Kingdom.

Mary Ransom      16 Mar 2012, 13:39

In view of this text, how can Evangelical Christians be so vocal in defending corporations who's greed has destroyed the global economy? After church service, I hear more conversations about money, expensive vacations, buying more stuff, etc. It seems the church is obsessed with wealth and money. In fact, our Pastor used a couple who had to move from a 3 million dollar house to a 2 million dollar house as an example of suffering and trusting God to save them during the economy!! Most of the people in church only make about $30,000 a year. Many have lost their jobs and homes...I found the Pastors flaunting of these peoples wealth as a sign of God's favor as so offensive I know longer want to attend this church...however, I find this is the pervasive attitude in American churches....

Doug Buckley      17 Mar 2012, 19:44

Hi Mary. People should avoid prosperity ministries or churches that focus on worldly wealth, since this is really what they covet. Wealth and riches can definitely come between us and God and cause us to lose sight of what's important. That's the sin of riches. There's people who are very wealthy and still lead humble Christian lives, but it can be difficult. Also if they are business owners they need to take good care of their workers, and not take advantage of people. I don't like greedy corporations, but the alternative is a government that plays God.

Tkane      21 Aug 2012, 09:09

De lord is so good i tank God for makin me hear dis word i say may Almighty God name be praise

asamoah bonsu      09 Feb 2013, 03:17

Gog bless you for this word. this test tells us about what happened in those days so what should we do today.

Doug Buckley      09 Feb 2013, 17:49

Thank you sir

nana quame      31 Mar 2013, 17:59

God bless you

Doug Buckley      31 Mar 2013, 23:07

Thank you, God bless

Ross Mathew      25 Apr 2013, 17:48

Why is it that the Church can with hold there wealth while many of the people attending and providing donations can barely put food on the table?

Jamie Wimberly      17 Sep 2013, 10:37

"This doesn't mean that rich people have to literally sell of all their worldy possessions in order to follow Christ, because Christ is no longer with us in flesh".

This is just plain wrong. When Jesus recruited the disciples he instructed them to leave everything behind. You cannot serve two masters. You will either love one or hate the other. You either choose to serve God or serve the world. So called Christians will only obey what is convenient for them.

Doug Buckley      17 Sep 2013, 12:35

Hi Jamie. It doesn't follow that one must LITERALLY sell their worldly possessions in order to serve Christ. You can own something, like a car, without serving it. Of course a lot of Christians do serve worldly possessions, but this isn't always the case. Owning something doesn't automatically make one a servant of it.

These verses should be read with a measure of spiritual understanding. It's where the person's heart is that matters. Some people have little wealth and spend their lives consumed with material things. Someone could have great wealth in a bank account and not be focused on it. Clearly nowadays people don't literally have to give up farms and inheritances to follow Christ.

Sarkin yakin munga      23 Nov 2013, 23:59

Please i need a plain interpretation of the rich man not goin to heaven

Doug Buckley      24 Nov 2013, 14:02

Hi Sarkin, it's impossible for a soul who's laden with worldly things to enter the Kingdom. It's as impossible as a camel going through the eye of a needle. God of course can lead a rich man or anyone out of the world and into the Kingdom.

Cathy Fara      06 Jan 2014, 07:23

Great article. I loved and enjoyed the post as well.

AJ       25 Jan 2014, 13:37

Doug, I think your comment of "where the heart is" is spot on. I know people who are wealthy but their heart is with Jesus. If you met them for the first time, you would not guess that they are wealthy. On the other hand, I know people who have little wealth,
But yet their hearts are focused on acquiring in essence money is their primary master. Ultimately you know which master your heart truly serves.
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