Luke 18:24-27 (NIV) Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, 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.”
Those who heard this asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”
These words were said to all of those gathered around Jesus, and hit most of them like a ton of bricks. In the worldview common at the time (and not that uncommon today), those who were wealthy were considered especially blessed by God. Even the Pharisees, who loved money and pursued wealth (Luke 16:14), believed that the wealthier they became, the greater God’s favor toward them was.
But now Jesus was torpedoing that whole notion. Instead, He claimed that it was virtually impossible for a wealthy person to even enter the kingdom of God! And, by the way, that was His intent based on His illustration. It is not difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle; it is impossible! (Luke, a physician, appropriately used the word for a surgeon’s needle here.)
The reason for the impossibility of a rich person entering the kingdom of God is not difficult to see. For those who pursue wealth, that pursuit quickly becomes all-consuming, leaving no time or headspace for them to focus on God and His kingdom. And for those who attain great wealth, that wealth quickly becomes a god that must be served, protected, and increased, quickly taking that person’s focus off of all spiritual things, and cutting them off from communion with God.
Those who heard Jesus understood precisely not only what He said, but what He meant as well, and were stymied. If even the rich cannot be saved, if even those who have been shown such extraordinary kindness by God cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, then what hope is there for the ordinary, garden-variety person?
Jesus’ short, one-sentence response contains a whole volume of kingdom theology: What is impossible with men is possible with God. What this means is that salvation for anyone is actually impossible. Sin is too horrible, and the rift caused by it between sinful people and the holy God is too wide to ever be bridged by any amount of work or good deeds, or to be filled in by sacrificing any amount of money. But what is impossible for man to achieve by any means God is able to accomplish. His grace sent Jesus to the cross to open the doors of the kingdom to everyone by His suffering a death that would pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. And that massive sacrifice even overcomes the obstacles that worldly riches throw up to block the path into the kingdom for the wealthy, if they are willing to repent and believe.
Father, Your ways are amazing, marvelous, and wondrous beyond description. No sooner is the problem identified than the solution is pointed out as well. Thank You for Your love, Your grace, and Your gift of Jesus’ sacrifice that opened the way for me, even me, into Your kingdom. Amen.