I love the story of the rich man who comes to Jesus. It can be found in Matthew 19 as well as other places in the Gospels. Here’s a recap…
A rich, young man comes to Jesus and asks the question, “What must I do to get into heaven? How can I get my ticket punched?”. Jesus answered, “Sell all your possessions, give to the poor, and follow me.” The man walks away discouraged because he was tired to all of his stuff. Jesus turned this situation into a lesson and said, “It its easier for the camel to go through the eye if a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom.” The disciples were flabbergasted. “Who can be saved?” they asked. Then Jesus said something extremely profound: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Here’s why I love this:
1) We all are like the rich man. At one point or another, we all have something in our lives that we need to give up. The problem is, we don’t want to. It could be something that is obviously sinful, but it also could be something that has become sinful by degrees. It could be something that has become an idol. Paul wrote to the Colossians that covetousness is idolatry. How many times have a set foot in a store and said, “Oh, I want that, I wish I could afford it!” Boom. I am the rich man. One may even say the disciples had a little rich man in them too as they asked, “Who can be saved?”
2) We can’t earn righteousness The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?” because the rich man looked like he obviously had the stuff. Being rich and having a lot of possessions was a sign of a person “blessed by God,” in that culture. The man also made much of the fact that he “kept” the commandments. It was about his own sense of personal achievement. In the same way, we cannot on our own power earn righteousness. When we think we can, then we have to check ourselves. We are in desperate need of Jesus. The rich man couldn’t see his need at this point in his life, and when we lose sight of our need we cannot follow Jesus.
3) Its Impossible for Everyone The Gospel is the Gospel for everyone. Why is it the Gospel for everyone? Because no one is righteous by their own means. It was just as impossible for the disciples as it was for the rich man. This can be a never ending source of hope, joy, and encouragement if we let it be. We are not defined by our shortcomings or even our successes. Our definition has been placed on us by a power much greater than ourselves. There is always hope.