Gospel Message & Recording
Often the Christian, however well-intentioned, develops an attitude that he has earned his salvation in God. That is, praying, fasting and church attendance practiced, etc. on a consistent basis, has earned him a “right-standing” with God.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Luke 18:24) This statement, along with the verses that precede it, is often misunderstood due to the lack of contextual analysis. The man who Jesus was speaking to was asked to sell all his belongings and follow Jesus; because in the previous verses, the man had claimed to have kept all the commandments, as a follow-up to his question on how to inherit eternal life. (Luke 18:21) In other words, his security was in the fact that he had followed the laws of God. He had a feeling of “righteousness.” Along with this, he was very rich. Being rich, in the time of Christ, within the Jewish community, was a mark of blessing or favor with God. The point is that this “rich” man felt that since he has kept all the commandments, and done the right things according to the law, God was blessing him with riches. This is exactly what Jesus was attempting to debunk. Jesus was making it clear that richness was not a defacto consequence of following the commandments. Further, following the commandments could not earn someone’s salvation or “right-standing” with God. Thus, the idea behind Jesus’s famous statement about a “camel and needle” is not tied to “being rich;” but rather, a person’s attitude toward salvation. The statement that Jesus made about this rich man cannot be universally applied to other circumstances. It was specifically said for that rich man and his situation. Therefore, we cannot say that being rich, having money or wealth prevents a person from entering heaven. We can, however, conclude that if we place anything, tangible or intangible, in the presence of God, as a form of us “earning our salvation,” the camel will have an easier time going through the eye of a needle.
Everything that we own or possess is ours by the Grace of God. It was not by our own ingenuity or hard work that we are successful. Rather, we must understand that: if not for the grace of God, we would have nothing. Further, we would be lost.
The rich man could not understand grace because his mind was consumed with his riches that he earned through “keeping the commandments.” In some way or the other, Jesus was disappointed with him because he did not attribute his riches to the Grace of God, but to him “keeping the commandments.” In other words, the rich man credited himself for everything he had, rather than giving the credit to God. Conversely, let us imagine if he had said that the Grace of God gave his riches to him. Then I believe we would have a different story. But alas, it was not so; for the rich man saw his riches as proof of his salvation. When in fact, the proof was the grace of God. In short, he gave glory to himself and not to God.
- Do we fall into the same type of thinking as the rich man?
- Do we feel that our health, wealth, career, recognition is proof of our salvation?
- Do we consider our “works” as the reason why we have blessings in our life? Do we ever think if I do more good things, I will gain/earn favor with God? If so, we have fallen into the same trap as the rich man.