Why Does Jesus Single Out the Rich?Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
When Jesus saw this, he said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God! In fact, 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!”
Why does Jesus single out the rich in this passage? Why does he point out how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God?
Our passage in Luke begins with a rich religious leader who approaches Jesus with the question of how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus calls this leader to sell his possessions and become a disciple. But he cannot let go of his possessions, so he declines Jesus’ offer. In this context, Jesus talks about how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom. He acknowledges what has just been seen in the response of the rich leader to Jesus. This explains, in part, why Jesus singles out the rich in this instance.
Yet Jesus points to something counterintuitive about wealth. We often think of the rich as having more freedom. They are free to buy whatever they like. They are free to go wherever they want to go. They can get their needs met whenever they wish. Riches appear to be the doorway to true freedom.
But, in fact, wealth can be bondage. The rich, and this includes those of us who would think of ourselves as mere “well off,” are often bound by chains of silver and gold. Like the affluent leader in Luke 18, we who have things can let these things keep us from living freely and fully for God.
Is there hope for the rich? Is there hope for us? Yes, indeed, because God can do the impossible. God can break the chains of wealth and set us free. According to Jacques Ellul in his brilliant book Money and Power, giving to others can help set us free from the bonds of riches: “We cannot measure the power of giving in human relations. Not only does it destroy the power of money, but even more, it introduces the one who receives the gift into the world of grace...." One way God helps to set us free from our captivity to money is through helping us give it away.
Jesus doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the problems of riches because he wants all people—including those who are wealthy—to live freely and fully as citizens of the kingdom of God.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways does money keep you from following Jesus freely and fully? How free are you to give away some of your possessions? Are you willing to ask the Lord to help you be more generous?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, I want to be your disciple without constraint. I can think of ways that money holds me back. Sometimes, I don’t want to part with what I consider to be mine. At other times, it’s the worry about money that keeps me from following you with freedom and boldness.
Set me free, dear Lord, from the grasp of Mammon. Help me to use for your purposes all that you have entrusted to me. May I be generous in giving and wise in spending. May I see all of my “stuff” as that which you have entrusted to me so that I might honor and glorify you.
Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect, and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose,
Every power as Thou shalt choose. Amen.
Jacques Ellul, Money and Power, forward by David W. Gill, translated by LaVonne Neff, reprint (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2009).
Excerpt from "Take My Life and Let it Be" by Frances Havergal, 1874. Public domain.