“And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.” And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them 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.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth).”
“Again, I saw vanity under the sun: a person who has no one, either son or brother, yet there is no end to all his toil, and his eyes are never satisfied with riches, so that he never asks, “For whom am I toiling and depriving myself of pleasure?” This also is vanity and an unhappy business.”
God and wealth. Therein lays the rub for those of us who live in North America. We live in a place where being rich is praised, looked upon as success, something to aspire to. However, to achieve it, we are told, there are sacrifices one must make. Less time for your spouse, your children, your friends, your God. We tell ourselves, “it is only for a time and then we will have all the time we want together”. Or, “I am doing this to provide my children with the life I never had or always wanted”. However, more times than not, the striving and hard work become the habit, the new normal. The adrenaline rush we get from work needs to be fed more and more until it takes over and consumes us and all that we love. We now live to work rather than work to live. Our work and the desire to have becomes our god.
Christ looked upon the rich young man whom he loved and asked him to leave the one thing that was keeping him from a relationship with him: his wealth. Jesus provides an image of a camel going through the eye of a needle to explain the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom of God. In ancient times a small door in the wall surrounding Jerusalem was called the “eye of a needle”. It was used by travellers looking to enter the city after the large gates were closed at night. When a merchant arrived with his camels the only way in was through this small door. The merchant could only get one camel through at a time and to do so must either remove their burden first or have them get on their knees and coax them through with great difficulty. The disciples, upon hearing this, would know exactly what Jesus was talking about because they would have seen this time and time again in Jerusalem and other cities.
Do we, like the rich young ruler, have the appearance of following Christ by our outward appearances but inwardly serve our desire for wealth and possessions? Do we appease our conscience by giving our money or maybe some of our time to the church but down deep we know our hearts belong to something else? Do we need to reassess our walk with God and Christ? Jesus is not asking us to literally sell everything but to ensure that what we truly love in this world is God and our neighbour with all our heart, not a career and possessions.
May we take the time this day to get on our knees, remove our burden and walk through that gate, the one that leads to a more God-centred life.