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Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Poor In Spirit Can Go To Heaven


Matthew 19:1-30 NIV



Divorce




1When Jesus had finished saying these things, He left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. 2Large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.

3Some Pharisees came to Him to test Him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

4“Haven’t you read,” He replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’a 5and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’b ? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7“Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

8Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. 9I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”


10The disciples said to Him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”

11Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. 12For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”


The Little Children and Jesus


13Then people brought little children to Jesus for Him to place His Hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.



14Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” 15When He had placed His Hands on them, He went on from there.


The Rich and the Kingdom of God


16Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked,

“Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”

17“Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. 

“There is only One Who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the Commandments.”

18“Which ones?” he inquired.

Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’c and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’d 

20“All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”

21Jesus answered, 

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow Me.”

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.




23Then Jesus said to his disciples, 

“Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”



25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

26Jesus looked at them and said, 

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

27Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”

28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His Glorious Throne, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.



29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wifee or children or fields for My Sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.



Can a camel to go through the eye of a needle?



Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven. Why would this be?


Does this mean that it will be hard for e.g. a multi-billionaire to go to heaven? Can a rich man go to heaven only by giving away all of his goods to the poor, as Jesus advised one young rich man? And could this be why many wealthy people set up  charity foundations?


It is entirely possible for a rich man to go to heaven unless a rich man trusts in his own merits or wealth.  There are many proverbs that talk about that, like Proverbs 11:28 (ESV):


“Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf”.


When we trust in ourselves and don't rely on Jesus and His Death and Resurrection for our salvation, then we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus told the rich man to go sell everything He was testing him to see whether his trust and security was in Jesus or in his riches (himself).


The Parable of the Sower can probably shed some light on this. In this parable, there are four different types of soil on which seed is sown. The seed represents the Gospel and the soils represent different responses people have to it.


The third type of soil/response is described as follows:

But the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. Mark 4:19 ESV


So, riches have the potential to deceive those who possess them. This is not always the case, but it is, indeed, a potential pitfall - so much so that Jesus does say it is quite hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.


Of particular interest for this is the expression of a camel going through the eye of the needle. There are four possible explanations. One interesting option is that the word for camel could also be translated as "rope" or "beam". Context would determine which is the proper translation. It would be difficult, to be sure, but not impossible.


Of course, Jesus does say in the passage that with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible. How does God make this possible? He gives us the heart poor in spirit by the Holy Spirit that we can beg His free salvation paid by the precious Blood of  His Son Jesus. 


Amen.


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