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Matthew 19:23-26

Who can be saved? Your wealth won’t save you, but what will?

Tom Faletti

February 13, 2024

Matthew 19:23-26 The danger of riches


Jesus uses a vivid illustration to make his point about the dangers of wealth.  His statement about the camel going through the eye of a needle has led many people to search for answers – particularly because they don’t want to take it literally (and given that fact that Jesus was raised as a Jew in a culture where exaggeration for effect was the norm, he probably was exaggerating in some sense).


Some scholars suggest the existence of a small gate into a walled city, separate from the wide, main gate, where a camel could only go through if it was stripped of all it was carrying.  This smaller entrance is supposed to have been called the “needle’s eye.”  There is no evidence for the existence of such entryways, but the image might be apt anyway.  We need to let go of any possessions that would keep us from entering the kingdom of God, and that means we need to let go of everything we cling to, like a camel being relieved of its burdens, before we can go through.  However, the disciples don’t envision there being any way through the eye of a needle.


The disciples are astonished by what Jesus says about rich people because they think rich people are more likely to get into to heaven than poor people.  That was common thinking in their day.  Would that be a correct way of thinking?  Explain.


What is Jesus’s answer to their question, “Then who can be saved?” (19:25, NRSV)


Note that Jesus is not saying rich people can’t go to heaven.  Zacchaeus was rich (Luke 19:9).  Joseph of Arimathea was rich (Matt. 27:57).  Nicodemus was rich (John 19:39).  Rich people were not required to give up their wealth in the early church (Acts 5:4).


What do you think Jesus means by saying that for humans it is impossible?


What do you think Jesus means by saying that for God all things are possible?  What is he saying about us and wealth?


What is your reaction to this passage?  What does it say to you about your own wealth or lack of it and how it might affect your salvation?



Take a step back and consider this:


God is at work in us, in this world.  He knows that we need possessions: a frying pan to cook in, clothes to wear,  a toilet; etc.  And the more advanced our world gets, due to the ingenuity of the human mind – which was created by God and then invited to use its free will to create other things – the more things we come to need: cars or bicycles, cell phones, microwave ovens, etc.


The problem is not that things exist; the problem is that they sometimes take over the focus of our lives.  Jesus has at least two different purposes in today’s conversation: to push us to re-focus and put our priorities in the right place, and to guide us to a deeper point – that there is nothing we can do to save ourselves.  Only God can do that.


Wealthy persons can live a life focused on their many possessions and the next possession they hope to get, or they live a life focused on sharing the love of God with those around them.  Poor people can live a life focused on their meager possessions and the next possession they hope to get, or they live a life focused on sharing the love of God with those around them.  Whatever a person’s situation, only God can bring them to the kingdom of heaven.  Neither having many possessions nor having few possessions gives you a ticket to heaven.  Only God can do that.


What is one, small change you could make today, to take a bit of your mind off of wealth or “things” so that your mind and heart can focus more on people and God?



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Copyright © 2024, Tom Faletti (Faith Explored, This material may be reproduced in whole or in part without alteration, for nonprofit use, provided such reproductions are not sold and include this copyright notice or a similar acknowledgement that includes a reference to Faith Explored and See for more materials like this.

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