Is money evil? Not according to the very misquoted 1 Timothy 6:10, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” There are plenty of figures in the bible who are considered godly and have ample cash.
Our passage today is also one that is often misquoted and misused. There are some who want to make this an absolute for everyone who calls themselves a follower of Christ. However a deeper look into the passage shows that this isn’t the case. Our passage today (Matthew 19:16-30) demonstrates that God is sovereign and loving, and our heart idols are the very things that keep us from loving God well.
The rich young man in this narrative asks the question many ask in regard to their desire for eternal life, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” It’s the question many of us have had from time to time, whether we are religious or not. What’s interesting is Jesus’ response. He doesn’t go into the typical 3-4 point pithy gospel presentation asking him to accept Himself into his heart, as we would see many evangelicals do today; but Jesus probes further, because our salvation isn’t contingent on our adding Jesus to our already busy lifestyle. It is because of Jesus’ love for this man that He digs deeper in to the heart issues that are bugging this man (See the parallel passage Mark 10:21). Jesus tells him to keep the commands. Why? It isn’t because Jesus is contradicting His own teachings , as well as the disciple’s teaching that we are saved by grace through faith, but He is trying to show this man where his problem lies; in his heart.
Generally, this man is a good man. The culture saw him as good, but Jesus, who doesn’t judge the outside, but the inside heart issues, realizes that this man has not used his money well, and has developed a love for money that has negated his love for his neighbor. This is why Jesus tells him to do commands 6-9 and another command found in Leviticus 19:18. Those were external commands that the man could appear to keep, but it’s only when Jesus reaches deep in to the real issue (Greed, love of money) that exposed his idols and his heart strings. Jesus tells him there is one more thing, “Sell what you possess and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven, and follow me.” Jesus hit him right where his idol was; his check book. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are pretty good, and in most cases that may be true; but it is those things we can’t live without and that get in the way of a real relationship with the God that hurt us as people. Jesus cared enough to expose that reality, but instead of repenting of that idol and following Jesus, the text says “…he went away sorrowful for he had great possessions.” His “treasure” was not Jesus. Jesus promised him the treasure he is seeking by letting go of his idol and following him.
In many ways we do the same thing. We’re too busy for Jesus. We have other loves on our mind. We too often seek God, not as the prize or treasure, but as the means to that treasure.
What comes next is interesting. Jesus’ disciple’s witness this, and are “Astonished.” From their vantage point then was “If that guy is out of the Kingdom, then who can get in?” It’s a fair question, and Jesus immediately reminds them that with man it is impossible, but with God “All things are possible!” Our salvation is not from our works. If it were, we would be in trouble. Our salvation comes from God’s “Good Deeds” in Chris Jesus. We are called to repentance from our good works (Hebrews 6:1), as well as, the idols and sins that beset us, and trust that Jesus is truly who He says He is; the Messiah. The reason it is hard for the rich man to obtain salvation is not because of his riches, but because of his affections. His true love and reliance, trust and worth is based on money, not God. This is the heart of man’s problems. It is these heart lusts that oppress others that often lead to greater issues in our world. Jesus is here to heal us from our addictive bondage to our sins and desires that continue to ruin us.
We all have idols, and it is through God’s sovereign grace that we are saved at all. When his disciples, still astonished, ask “What then will we have?” Jesus reminds them that whatever they have left for Him, will be given back to them one hundred times. We are all seeking our joy, worth and sustenance from everywhere but who we were created to get it from, and it has created desires in all of us that separate us from the creator who created us with the purpose to worship Him, and find our joy and worth in the praise itself.
We will be very surprised I think in the end, as we realize those that we thought were first, and those we thought were last will be first. Once again, we have the crazy upside down Kingdom of God, where those that die, live, and those that try to find life apart from God, die.