The Enticing Snare of Wealth
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:23
suggested further reading: Deuteronomy 8:11–20
Lusting for wealth is such a deadly disease that it may prevent us from going to heaven, Christ tells us here.
In Mark, Christ softens the harshness of this warning by restricting it to those who place “confidence in riches.” But these words are, I think, intended to confirm rather than correct the former statement. It is as if Jesus once more asserts that people ought not to think it strange that entering the kingdom of heaven is difficult for the rich because they tend to trust in their riches. Yet this teaching is highly useful to all: to the rich, that being warned of their danger, they may be on their guard; to the poor, that being satisfied with their lot, they may not so eagerly desire what would bring them more damage than gain.
It is true that riches do not by themselves hinder us from following God. Rather, one result of the depravity of the human mind is that it is scarcely possible for those who have much to avoid being intoxicated by such riches. Those who are excessively rich are held by Satan, bound, as it were, by such chains that they cannot raise their thoughts to heaven. They are so busy and entangled with possessions that they become utter slaves to this world.
The illustration of threading a camel through the eye of a needle, which follows, amplifies the difficulty of rich people entering the kingdom of heaven. It tells us the rich tend to be so swelled with pride and presumption that they cannot tolerate being reduced to the narrow places through which God makes his people pass. I think that the word “camel” here refers to a rope used by sailors rather than to the animal so named.
for meditation: If we are wealthy, let us heed Jesus’ warning here and examine ourselves closely. But let us also remember that it is not necessary to have much in order to become infatuated by wealth. How many of us do not want a bigger house, a newer car, a better rate of interest for our savings, greater advancement at work? The warning comes to all of us, regardless of poverty or riches: beware of becoming so entangled with earthly things that you lose sight of heaven.