Wealth is not an asset, but a drawback, for entering God's kingdom.
The first in line on earth will not be the first in line for heaven.


 

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who
have riches to enter the kingdom of God." The disciples were
astonished at His words. But Jesus said, "Children, how hard it
is for those who trust in riches 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 greatly astonished, saying among themselves,
"Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said,
"With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things
are possible."

Then Peter began to say to Him, "See, we have left all and followed
You." So Jesus answered, "Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one
who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or
wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall
not receive a hundredfold now in this time--houses, brothers,
sisters, mothers, children and lands, with persecutions--and in the
age to come, eternal life.

"But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

                                                         Mark 10:23-31 NKJV, condensed


                               Trusting God or Our Money?

Here's one that might make you snicker--It's hard to be rich! After the
wealthy young man turned his back on Jesus' invitation to discipleship,
Jesus turned again toward the Twelve who were far removed from any
sense of wealth or privilege. To their surprise, Jesus expressed empathy
for that young man and others like him. As if talking aloud but thinking to
himself, Jesus said, "How hard it is for people of means to enter God's
kingdom!"

The disciples would have had two conflicting views of the rich. Traditional
Old Testament teaching viewed prosperity as a sign of God's favor. It was
a big part of the package of being blest, along with peace and security,
abundant crops, and a large, strong and healthy household. From that
perspective, if it's that difficult for God's favorite ones to enter the kingdom,
then who could possibly get in!

Yet historically, the rich were considered the enemy of the poor. They
are the ones who oppress the less fortunate, skim the cream off the
top for themselves, work the labor pool to death, and set prices so high
the average person can't afford to buy. Few people think of themselves
as being rich, but we recognize them because they are the first to be
acknowledged and pandered to. They get the best seats and the most
admiration. They don't have to wait to be served; just stand back and let
them pass. Therefore it would be logical to conclude they would also
be the first to be ushered into God's kingdom.

Not so, said Jesus! It was a radical statement, even the disciples who
had been with Jesus for the past three years were amazed at these
words. In his typically descriptive language, Jesus said it is easier for
a large, cumbersome camel to go through the narrow needle's eye,
than for the rich to enter his kingdom!

Jesus taught that possessions are excess baggage and we must
strip down. Our heart is where our treasure is. That's why he told the
rich young man he needed to store his wealth in heaven before he
could have eternal life. Whether we like to admit it or not, the things
we possess own us more than we own them.

The rich have little reason to rely on God because their money and
influence can fix most any problem. Wealth is a hindrance because it
has a way of filling one's life. Much thought, time and energy is required
to make, preserve, and spend all that money. Plus it takes the protection
of security personnel and an army of financial advisors, tax lawyers
and accountants to keep the IRS at bay.

People who strive for treasures on earth seldom have the foresight
and desire to store treasure in heaven. Yet when riches get in the way
of doing the will of God, wealth becomes a handicap and the "camel"
can't fit through the eye of the needle. One must become empty in order
to be filled by God's spirit.

Who then can be saved? It depends on where you place your trust,
no matter what your net worth is. The rich will get into God's kingdom
the same way a poor man does. God shows no partiality. The Bible
sometimes speaks of God as being jealous, a term we humans
understand all too well. God is jealous for our affection, time and loyalties.
At one point Jesus was quoted as saying, "You can not serve both God
and money." The two are at odds and usually work against each other.
We must decide which will take priority and which one we will stake
our future on.

It's something to think about before we rush off to work so we can
put money in the bank and food on our tables. Life is brief, with much to
do that will count for eternity. There's no time to be distracted by all the
issues associated with wealth.

That leaves us with this question. If it's not prosperity that is the sign of
God's favor, then what is? The answer lies in the direction Jesus was
headed. His face was toward Jerusalem where he demonstrated a
radical new way to live--embodied in suffering and the glory of the Cross.

 

Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.

 

Icebreaker:  How much money would you need in order to
                        think of yourself as rich?

 

Describe someone you know of who is wealthy.
            What does the word "wealthy" mean to you?
            What makes a person rich?
            In what ways are you rich?

 

In this text Jesus was talking literally about people with lots of money.
            Do you know anyone like that?
            If so, what do you like or dislike about them?
            Do you think it would be difficult to be rich?   Why or why not?

 

Give an example of a possession that seems to own you.

 

What was the point Jesus was making when he said, "It's easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter
God's kingdom."?

 

Wealth will not buy our way into heaven, only the grace of God will get us
there. Grace is a gift from God, but it won't do us any good until we receive it.
            Explain how those statements apply to this text?
            How likely are you to receive God's gift of grace when you are already
                        full of other things?
            "With God all things are possible."--What are the possibilities?

 

Trusting God versus trusting money.
            When have you made a conscious decision to do either?
            What do you trust God for if you already have enough money to take
                        care of your needs?
            If you don't have enough money to take care of your needs, will faith
                        provide what you need?
            Discuss the difference between being God-sufficient and self-sufficient.

 

We tend to think that not having money limits our capabilities. Jesus said it was
the other way around.
             How do you explain these two conflicting points of view?

 

The disciples left everything to follow Jesus.
            Do you think Peter and the others looked and felt poor?
            Were they missing anything by spending so much time with Jesus?
            What do we learn from the disciples about losing and gaining?

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