They are filthy rich! It’s obvious from the clothes they wear to the car they drive to the mansion they live in. This person is well off! Of course, nowadays you can’t be too sure. When so many people are trying to live in luxury, way beyond their means, it can be hard to distinguish between who’s wealthy and who’s just drowning in debt.
Are you rich? Or are you trying really hard to be rich? Be careful! Jesus warns…
For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Whew! I’m safe! I’m not even close to being rich so I won’t have any trouble going through the eye of that needle.
Rich is a relative term. How do you determine who’s rich and who’s not? Rich in one part of the world might be considered poor in another. How do we know what Jesus meant? How do we apply this verse?
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus elaborated …
23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
Jesus not only cautions those having riches, but he extends the warning to those that trust in riches. Maybe the question at hand is not necessarily about what you have, but more about what has you.
In Luke 18-19, the scripture gives the stories of two wealthy men who each have an encounter with Jesus. When these two men meet Jesus, they are faced with the greatest decision they will ever have to make. The first man is an unnamed young ruler. The second is a tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. Both men are very rich, yet it’s interesting how their encounters with Jesus turn out totally different.
The First Camel
In Luke 18, a rich young ruler has been doing some thinking. Life has been so good to him. He’s a ruler…He enjoys his status. People respect him. In fact, he gets special treatment wherever he goes. This young ruler enjoys his wealth too, but he’s smart enough to know these pleasures won’t last forever. So he approaches Jesus with a question…
18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
When it’s all over, what am I going to get out of all this? How can I guarantee I will inherit eternal life?
20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother.
21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up.
Undoubtedly, he was very religious, for the rich young ruler had been careful to keep all these commandments. Yet there was still a void that neither riches nor religion had filled.
22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
That’s not exactly what the rich young ruler wanted to hear. He had a lot at stake! His wealth, his position, all the pleasures and luxuries he had gotten used to.
Could he really trust this Jesus? Why should he have to give up all that was rightfully his? He was a ruler, not a follower. How could he be expected to blindly submit and follow someone who fellowshipped with the unclean and the sinners?
It just didn’t seem fair! The rich young ruler had carefully followed the law…he faithfully attended all the church services. He did everything right in the eyes of the religious. Yet Jesus said it wasn’t enough!
23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.
There’s no way I’m going to give up all this to follow Jesus into poverty.
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
The rich young ruler was just like a camel looking into the eye of a needle. This is impossible! There’s no way I can go through with this! I can’t give up all of my treasures and all of my power. Life as I know it will be no more. Where will I live? What will become of me? I will surely lose everything. I won’t have a life worth living!
26 And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved?
27 And [Jesus] said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
The rich young ruler could’ve cried out to Jesus. Lord, this is impossible! But…if you help me, then I will try. Instead, he walked away sorrowful. He turned his back on Jesus to put his faith and trust in what his riches could do for him.
The Second Camel
In Luke 19, we find Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, despised by everyone. He is a thief and a scoundrel, getting rich at the expense of his own people.
1And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.
2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.
Zacchaeus was chief among the publicans. Like the rich young ruler, he indulged in all the pleasures money could buy, but Zacchaeus was not happy with his life. He was searching for something that money couldn’t buy. Unlike the rich young ruler who was only after his eternal inheritance, Zacchaeus had no other ulterior motive except he wanted to see Jesus.
3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.
Zacchaeus didn’t just want to lay eyes on Jesus he wanted to “…see Jesus who he was.” He had heard the stories about the miracles, how Jesus touched lives everywhere he went. I believe Zacchaeus seriously wanted a life change. He was so desperate that he was willing to do anything…
4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.
5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.
6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.
When Zacchaeus saw Jesus, he also caught a glimpse of his own wretchedness. Zacchaeus realized he was a lowly sinner in need of a savior. When Jesus saw Zacchaeus’ hungry heart, the Savior reached out in love and compassion. The instant Jesus spoke to this little man, Zacchaeus surrendered and sold out all he had and received Jesus joyfully and took Him into his home.
7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.
Yes, Zacchaeus was a sinner, but now he had a Savior. Unlike the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus never asked Jesus for anything. He never once questioned what he could gain. Instead, Zacchaeus offered up all that he had.
8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.
Zacchaeus was so sorry for his sin that he was willing to give half of all his goods to the poor, as well as pay back four times the amount to all those he had cheated.
9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.
10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Zacchaeus traded all his riches for salvation, something worth more than all the treasures in the earth.
Two Camels, One Needle
Two very rich men stood before Jesus. The first camel wandered around the needle saying it’s impossible. The rich young ruler could have asked Jesus to help him. He could have asked Jesus to change his heart. The rich young ruler could have said I’m willing to be made willing. I’ll go through the eye of that needle no matter what it takes. Instead the rich young ruler walked away and forfeited eternal treasures for his earthly riches that would soon fade away.
The second camel faced the same impossibility as the first camel. The eye of the needle didn’t change…it was still just as tiny and narrow. It wasn’t any easier for Zacchaeus than it was for the young ruler. Zacchaeus found himself staring into the eye of the same needle and had to decide. Is Jesus worth it? Should I give up all my riches and my position? Do I take a chance and trust this Jesus to be my everything?
Zacchaeus and the rich young ruler both met Jesus, under the same conditions. But only Zacchaeus acknowledged his own weakness. Only Zacchaeus acknowledged his own inadequacy. Only Zacchaeus acknowledged his own sinfulness. Only Zacchaeus longed for forgiveness.
Zacchaeus believed on Jesus and trusted Him to be his personal savior. He made Jesus Lord of his life. When you really see Jesus for who He is, then you also see yourself for who you are. It becomes crystal clear: you owe Jesus everything! Selling out is not the ticket to salvation, but the fruit of salvation.
Zacchaeus chose to trust Jesus. His heart was changed! His sins were gone! And Zacchaeus had the promise of treasure in heaven!
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
What about you? Maybe you’re not wealthy by society’s standards, but you don’t have to be rich to trust in riches. Some spend a lifetime spending money they don’t have pursuing riches and pleasures that will all burn up one day.
Maybe that’s not you. Maybe you live a simple life…never needed a lot of money.
So money is not your pursuit…but you have a wealth of other things you haven’t fully surrendered to Christ. Are you willing to sell out all you have? Your thoughts, your ideas, and opinions? Your hopes and dreams? Your plans? Your passions? Will you give it all up to follow Jesus?
The rich young ruler wanted insurance of eternal life, but wasn’t willing to sacrifice anything in this life to get it. He was so caught up in the here and now…
What are you trusting in today? What are you pursuing? What has a hold on you?
Do you know Jesus as savior and Lord? Or are you putting on a religious front, going through all the Sunday morning motions? Like the rich young ruler, maybe you do all the right things. You have the church crowd convinced, and you don’t feel quite as guilty, but deep down you know something is missing.
Jesus wants all of you! He’s not interested in your bank account. He’s not interested in your possessions. Jesus wants you to sell out everything so He can become your everything.
What does it mean to be sold out to Jesus?
It’s not about money, but goes much deeper than that. When all the stuff this world has to offer…relationships, pleasures, positions, pursuits. When you reach the place the world no longer satisfies you, then you will know exactly what it means to sell out to Jesus Christ.
If you’ve reached this point and you are ready to make Jesus Lord of your life, all it takes is a simple prayer of surrender. Jesus, I am a sinner in desperate need of a savior. I’ve been disappointed one too many times by what this world has to offer. I need something real that won’t ever let me down.
Jesus, I surrender everything I have. Now You are all I have! Jesus, be my everything today and forever!
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