Have you noticed lately in our society, rich people are often made out to be the “bad guys”? Some say this happens in the Bible as well. Now it’s true, in God’s word Jesus often speaks about the rich. But in doing so, he does not put rich people down as “bad guys” per se. For Jesus came as the Savior of the world. Which means he came to die for the sins of ALL people — rich and poor alike. If we keep this fundamental biblical truth in mind, we can see that when Jesus refers to the rich, the problem invariably is not really their wealth itself, but the attitudes they have concerning that wealth.
We get an example of that happening in an incident recorded in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus has been trying to show a rich man that he is a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. The rich man didn’t think he had done anything wrong that needed forgiveness. Then we’re told, “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, ‘Children, how hard it is 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.’ The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (Mark 10:21-27)
As we hear Jesus’ words it’s easy for us to point our fingers at the rich and say “Sock it to them Jesus!” But without realizing it, when we condemn those who are rich, we are also condemning ourselves. For even though we may not make a million bucks a year, ride in limos, or live in a mansion, don’t poor and middle class people suffer from the same spiritual dilemma this rich man did?
Don’t we often take whatever money and material possessions we DO have, and make them the “A” number one priority of our life, pushing our relationship with God a far distant second, third, or even further priority down the line? How many of us wish we had a better job, play the lottery trying to hit the “big one”, or hope the government will give us more, simply because deep down we want more stuff? Bigger stuff? Better stuff? Or more expensive stuff in our lives?
This love of wealth we have makes it impossible for us to enter the Kingdom of God, no different than it did for the rich man Jesus spoke too. That means it’s not just the “rich” who are in spiritual trouble, and in need of help from God. We are ALL in serious trouble and need help from God!
Thankfully, such help is just what Jesus comes to give. We might be incapable of saving ourselves from this sinful greed we see in our lives. It might be impossible for us as sinners to get ourselves into the Kingdom of God. But what we can’t do, Jesus can! Why did Jesus give up his life on a cross for you? Why did he pay the penalty your sin really deserves? Why did Jesus miraculously rise again from the dead!
He did that as your Savior so you might be forgiven of your sinful greed and all the times you let wealth become your main priority. He did that so you might have the chance to dwell in his kingdom, and receive again all the blessings of his divine love and care, rich and poor alike!
— Paul Krentz is the Pastor at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Watertown.