The Rich Young Ruler

Category: Blog Published: Monday, 22 June 2020 Written by Chris Hall
camel laying

What is it about rich people? This passage from Matthew's Gospel must warm the cockles of many a social-justician Christian! Jesus talking about how the stinking rich don't deserve to get to heaven.

Matthew 19:23 (HCSB)

Possessions and the Kingdom
[23] Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to 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.”

I suppose there's a little bit of the inverse snob in all of us when we look at this passage, thinking how wonderful it will be to see the poor and marginalised stride into heaven with the rich that put them down denied entry.

But what is meant by a 'rich man'?

As is wise, start with context. In the surrounding passages we see Jesus being asked questions by the Pharisees, so its not too difficult to make the assumption that the rich young ruler is a Pharisee or one of their companions. After all he keeps the law to the best of his ability.

Matthew 19:20 “I have kept all these,” the young man told him. “What do I still lack?”

But 'rich'? So let's look at the Koine Greek. Well we would if there was something direct there. What we do see in verse 22 is that he had 'many possessions', hence we infer he was rich and wealthy.

So he is rich because he has many possessions and there's a good possibility he's one of the ruling class.

Do his riches keep him from heaven? No, the rest of the passage is clear, it's his attachment to his riches that is one of the barriers between him and salvation. Verse 21 lists two aspects that stand between this man and God.

Matthew 19:21 “If you want to be perfect,” Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

So not only does this man have to put Jesus before his positions but then he also has to follow Jesus. Nothing to do with him being rich.

What do we have an unhealthy attachment to? Are we willing to lay it down and follow Jesus?

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