Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't Be A Camel

{Matthew 19:23-26; ESV}
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 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.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Those of us who have the privilege of living in the United States live in the land of the rich. I realize that many of us wouldn’t consider ourselves rich, because we are surrounded by people who have much more than we have, but the reality is that we are very rich. We are rich because we are able to live away beyond the basic necessities of life.

I hope you can admit that even though you are not able to afford everything your heart desires, that you are rich. Now, the problem that we face isn’t our wealth, but it is our desire for stuff. It seems that for many of us the more we have the more we want. We can never have enough.

For example, I have a MacBook. It is a very good computer, and I am able to do everything that I want to do with it. Here is the catch. It is two years old, and now I find myself wanting a new one. One that has more memory, one that is faster, and has the newest programs. I don’t need a new computer, but in my heart I want one.

Because money and consumerism are such a part of our lives, I don’t know if we truly understand the radical truth Jesus gives us here. He tells us that it is hard for people who have money and stuff to be part of His kingdom. Why? It is hard because money and things tie us to the here and now, and prevents us from living our lives from the perspective of eternity. That was the issue of the rich young man, the event that prompted this discussion of money. The rich young man couldn’t leave sell his stuff and follow Jesus, he was tied to that moment in time, and he missed eternity. He was consumed with his little kingdom, and he missed becoming part of God’s kingdom.

Take a moment and consider what you would do if Jesus asked you to sell all your possessions, give the money to the poor, and follow Him. Would you sell your house? your car? or your television? Could you manage without your bed? your favorite food? your favorite jacket? or you favorite DVD? It is easy to skip over these teachings and tell ourselves that they don’t apply to us, but they do.

The truth of the matter is that we live in a nation full of camels, and there is not possible way we are going to make it through the eye of that needle that is in front of us (doesn’t this help explain why the Church has lost its influence in the United States?). Trusting God is our only hope of getting through. He alone has the ability of making a camel fit through the eye of a needle. The key word in this is trust. We must trust God, or there is no hope, and to trust God requires us to change the way we live.

I want to leave you with what Mark Moore wrote in connection to this passage in his book Encounters with Christ:
It would be easier if there was a single act or set standard for materialism. If we could just say a house of 80k or a car of 10k is the upper limit and leave it at that. Black and white rules and quick fixes, however, are obviously unsatisfactory. This battle will be long and arduous. We will likely fight perpetually against the onslaught of materialism to the end of our existence in this society. Our lack of precision, however, should not translate into lack of action. This passage calls for vigilance in incisively examining our prioritization of Jesus. It behooves believers to constantly increase their sacrificial giving to the Kingdom both in time and material resources. We must relentlessly push the boundaries of our budgets to attack excess and the false security of wealth in order to rapaciously and tenaciously grasp simplicity. As the wealthiest nation in the history of the world, it is nearly inevitable that we will underestimate how closely we resemble a camel. (pp. 146-147)

  • Point to Ponder: Trusting God is our only hope of breaking free from the shackles of materialism and entering His Kingdom.
  • Questions to Consider: Do you consider yourself wealthy? Are you able to part with your dearest possession? Why does materialism hold us back as we try to follow Jesus?
  • Prayer to Pray: Lord, thank You for all the blessings that You have given me. I want to ask for the faith I need to trust You from my security, rather than my wealthy. Remind me that wealth is temporary, but Your kingdom is eternal...

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