Jesus and Wealth | Matthew 19:16-30
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 19:16–19:30
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account of Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series covering Chapters 14-20 has been titled the Revelation of the King. Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people; he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. Jesus has revealed and displayed his identity as King, he has continued on his mission of establishing his kingdom, and has been declaring the values of his kingdom Jesus, and his disciples, are now on the move towards Jerusalem and ultimately the cross. Jesus is always training disciples while on mission. We have recently seen how Jesus used children as examples of what our faith is to look like, namely complete and utter dependence on the grace of the Father, in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Today we’ll see the great peril of wealth in realizing our own spiritual poverty.
Matthew 19:16-30 16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.
Verse 16-22 | Rich Young Ruler
On the road to Jerusalem, with crowds following him, Jesus is approached by a wealthy young man, Luke’s account mentioned he was a ruler. Notice, unlike the children the disciples do not hinder him from coming to Jesus, they didn’t stand in the way of him getting access at all. He is a man of prosperity and a man with a purpose coming to Jesus. This guy wasn’t coming as an opponent like the Scribes or Pharisees. He wasn’t coming hoping to trap Jesus with some controversial question or as a desperate beggar. This man was coming to Jesus enthusiastically; not to be healed, not to have a child blessed, but specifically for the condition of his own soul. This guy valued Jesus, sought Jesus, a wanted answers from Jesus. He recognized all the money, possessions, authority, and youthful vigor he has there is still something incomplete.
He wants to know what “Good deed” must be done to have eternal life, enter the kingdom, be saved, they are all the same equivalent. This man’s desire for truth is genuine but he is suffering from some real spiritual ignorance. He is functioning as legalist, he believes there is standard he can achieve or actions he can perform that can essentially earn God’s eternal favor. Jesus will answer his question but in doing so he is seeking to more fully enlighten this man to his true spiritual condition. You are not good enough. Only one is Good. This is important. There is one standard by which we measure “Good” or not “good/bad”. Jesus is clear only God is truly “good.” His creation, without corruption of sin is declared “good”. But that is not how things are today; there is sin, rebellion, brokenness, imperfection in the world, and in each of us. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This is a simple yet profound truth each of us has a deep individual spiritual need.
Jesus tells him if you want to enter eternal life you are going to have to keep God’s commandments. “Which ones? I want to be clear.” Jesus replies with do not murder, commit adultery, steal, give false witness, and honor your father and mother. Oh and love your neighbor as yourself, this is the varsity variety of “don’t covet” where you love your neighbors stuff and want it for yourself. There are many commandments Jesus doesn’t mention, he only uses the “horizontal” commandments (how we are to love each other), to also show our deficiency is both “horizontal” and “vertical” (how we love God). We don’t love each other perfectly, how can we possible love God perfectly. Again this man’s spiritual blindness comes out. “I’ve done all that.” He apparently missed the entire Sermon on the Mount where Jesus takes the law and doesn’t lower the standards, he raises them. This guy is confused because in his mind he’s followed the law. What a bold statement in the face of how Jesus previously describes the commandments. Never, been angry, never lusted, never coveted, never lied, ever? Doubtful. Yet, he does have a sense he is still lacking. He is. he can’t possibly actively love his neighbors as himself because of his relationship with his own wealth and possessions. Jesus was concerned with this man’s heart. Luke says, Jesus was instructing him lovingly. He knows man was not in a place of radical dependence but rather perceived independence. “I’ve got all the wealth I need, I’m a good person, I have never done anything “majorly wrong”.
Jesus gives him his prescription for life. Sell all you have, don’t just give it up, but use your great wealth to specifically bless others, and follow me. It’s the same command Jesus gave to Peter and the fishermen, to Matthew, the Tax collector. And yet the response this time is dramatically different. Rather than getting up, leaving everything, and following Jesus. He leaves dejected. He was sorrowful, he had grief because he realized he would have to give up his Great Possessions, to follow this “Good” Teacher. In this man’s estimation the value of being with Jesus, having eternal life, even “treasure in heaven” wasn’t as attractive to him as the treasures he had before him. He didn’t argue with the prescription he just didn’t like it. The rich young ruler was defined by all three of these things and was looking to them for his salvation, yet there was an identity he did not have and that was follower of Jesus. Jesus gave him clear instructions that following Him will led to radical life changes and full abandonment of all he holds dear. The man started as a seeker of Jesus, but when he found what the cost of following Jesus would be he left discouraged. Be prepared if, or when you ask Jesus “What do I need to give up, to walk away from, to follow you whole heartedly?” Don’t ask me to give that up! That’s what it will be. When Jesus says “Follow me” you will have to walk away from a lot. But you also will be walking towards something infinitely greater. Jesus prescription says this treatment will cure your desire to “Be perfect”, can also be translated “made complete”. All desire for wealth, or possessions, is really just a desire for wholeness. We all recognize something is missing in our lives, we all want sense of peace and contentment that comes from true wholeness because what we experience is usually fleeting and incomplete.
Think about your “best day” maybe it was a wedding day, maybe the birth of a child, a graduation, new home, a great vacation. Regardless of how great it was, we still want more. Where the rich young ruler was mistaken, was in thinking that was missing was something small and easy to acquire, when in fact it is something massively great and impossible to procure. Entering the kingdom of heaven, having eternal life with God, being saved from the wrath of sin and death cannot be cannot be an add-on, option, accessory, or an upgrade to an already comfortable life. It is not cherry to top off the life you have now. Our problem is not that we want too much out of life it is that we want to little from it. We are made for an eternal lavish joyful kingdom and we settle for a decaying slum run by the destructive dictatorship of ourselves and wonder why we’re not whole. Being part of the kingdom ends your search for wholeness in what can be had in the life you have now, and replaces it with greater promises, hopes, and desires that become a consuming new reality in your life. This new reality changes all our relationships, our relationships with ourselves, with others, with God, and yes with money and possessions. We are no longer consumers, we are stewards. While there are spiritual realties at play here we would be in error to over spiritualize this episode and miss clear personal implications. Jesus doesn’t tell this man “Go and think differently about your money and possessions and if you think about it try to be a little more charitable, if you have extra.” But that’s what we do when we read this or hear this. Yes Jesus is concerned with heart attitudes, and yes it’s clear money and possessions have become an idol for this man. However, Jesus is consistently clear, our actions show our hearts. We should not be so quick let ourselves off the hook and say I’m not the rich guy, I am poor, I barely have enough, and I can’t give. We have to really wrestle with who we are in this story.
We are this guy. I am rich and your rich, we are so rich we’re blind to how rich we are. Remember the actual poor places of that day the child mortality rate was 50%, ours is less than 1%. We are healthy, we are fed, and we are entertained. Median household income in Snohomish County is over $67k per year, second highest in our state, $14k (25%) above national average. World median is less than $10k per year (we’re 7x that amount). Nearly everyone in the US is in the top 2% of the world, want to be top 1% make over $34k (half our median). Put in another way, according to the UK Daily Mail the average of the bottom 5% of incomes in the US is higher than the average income of the top 5% in India. The point of this is not for us to feel guilty about where we were born, the privileges we enjoy. Or to causally dismiss real economic pressure, and actual situations of need in our lives or in our community. It is to rightly recognize our status and place in the world understand how our material wealth can easily lead to spiritual poverty.
Verse 23-26 | Difficult, Impossible, Possible.
Jesus goes on to talk about the difficulty material wealth brings in following Him. The difficulty will be great and can hinder entrance into the kingdom to make it seem insurmountably impossible. He uses the image of a camel going through the eye of the needle. It is simply hyperbole, there was no “small” gate you could sort of shove a camel through where it’s difficult but if you just work hard enough you can make it. It was a purposely ludicrous image. The disciples respond “who then can be saved?” If the wealthy and t materially blessed don’t make it in who does? The disciples don’t have an “unbiblical” view of wealth necessarily. On the contrary numerous times in the OT, God’s blessing is equated with material wealth, hard work, stewardship, wisdom are all praised, and the rewards are bountiful. So don’t mistake Jesus teaching here to imply that wealth or even the wealthy (even us) are so evil they are without hope. Hope cannot be found in ourselves or our riches. The gospel is here in a big way in verse 26. What is absolutely impossible on our own, no amount of charity will pay our debt of sin, is absolutely possible with God. God is good, merciful and gracious in richly providing salvation for those, rich and poor, who’s hope is found in Him alone. This hope changes how we see and use our material wealth. We are to have a gospel and kingdom centered view recognizing our wealth is not our own but is to be stewarded for God’s purposes. That means we actively use the money and possessions we have with Godly wisdom and an others focus. Specifically, our material wealth we receive is never intended to terminate on ourselves, it is to be enjoyed by us AND be a blessing to others. Disciples of Jesus are counter cultural in how use our finances, including intentional, sacrificial, cheerful giving our local church, generosity to others near and far. When we don’t manage our finances that way we are placing more faith and hope in the wealth we’ve received rather than the God who provides all things. What does your relationship with money and possessions look like?
1 Tim 6:17-19 17 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Verse 27-29 | Eternal Kingdom
Ok, you have radically orientated your life to the values of God’s kingdom, faithfully responding to Jesus call to follow Him. Like Peter you’re asking “Jesus but what about us? What about those of us who did leave our jobs, leave our families, and are making great material sacrifices to follow you?” Peter and us are not so different from the young ruler. He wants to know, if and when we actually live like Jesus with our finances is there a payoff? If so when? Jesus answers YES and LATER! Jesus is clear what we do and how we live maters, but what is to come is of exponentially greater value. He points forward a day, to a place, we see down the road when all things are restored/renewed, (Rev 22 and Isaiah 65/66) where there is a new heavens and new earth. A time where what was given up for the sake of following Jesus, for the sake of spreading the gospel, is returned and rewarded “hundred fold”. This is awesome! Jesus teaches his disciples about wealth and doesn’t stay don’t desire, and don’t be unsatisfied, he says desire things that are actually great and can ultimately satisfy. Jesus is not anti-incentive. He promises lavishness!!!
This is not the prosperity gospel because they think too small and too short-term, their answer is the life of the rich young ruler. Jesus is promising an unending kingdom life. We need to be more than ok with our reward, the prize of knowing/following Jesus will not be fully realized in this life and this life might not even be comfortable. The call of a disciple is not go and acquire but to leave and follow. That following does lead to a great reward. It leads to a perfect wealthy, incorruptible, joyful, enjoyable kingdom existence! Jesus doesn’t call us to a life of no gratification but one of delayed gratification. That means for today, or tomorrow, or longer life should look a lot more like self-denial then self-indulgence but that is now how it will always be. Jesus sacrifice purchased an eternal life with Him so our sacrifices in this life are not eternal but temporary.
2 Cor 4:17-18 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
If life with him is not eternal than eat drink, be merry for tomorrow we die, but if it is then we live lives in the here and now that model and prepare us for the life to come. Why don’t I believe this? Because what is right in front of me and around me seems so real, great, significant. Yet there is more than what is seen, there is more than today, or the promises of a few more tomorrows, there is eternity. How is this possible? It is not possible with any amount of giving or sacrifice on our part, only a perfect complete sacrifice can make us whole providing our entrance in to the eternal kingdom of God. Jesus preformed the great deed!
Verse 30 | Jesus Becomes Last
Don’t leave today dejected like the rich young ruler who only saw the short-term cost and missed the eternal promises. We have to remember who Jesus is. He isn’t a rich young ruler of a small province in a corner of one planet, He is God, the richest eternal King of the entire UINVERSE. HE is the ALPHA and the OMEGA, that is as first as it can possibly get, and yet he willingly gave it up for the rescue mission of the Gospel and calls us to that same mission. “Don’t settle for the American Dream, when Jesus is calling us to the Great Commission.” In doing that what we receive from God (both money and the treasure of the Gospel) will be always flowing to others.
Phil 2 4-10 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus left a life of first, lived a life with the least, died the death of the despised last, and rose again so all of us, those who have thought they were first and those who have known they were last can have the hope of eternal life. This humble singular act of sacrifice rings into eternity, but his humble status does not.
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Hope in the humble Jesus who comes as Savoir leads to our humble worship of Jesus as King. Trust Jesus!
1 Cor 2:9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—