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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Day 45: Matthew 19:16-30 & Psalm 46 - Are We Required to Sell All of Our Possessions and Give our Money to the Poor?

Today's Reading: Matthew 19:16-30 & Psalm 46

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Are We Required to Sell All of Our Possessions and Give our Money to the Poor?

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” - Matthew 19:21-24, ESV
Today's passage contains two of the most famous, and misunderstood, things Jesus said about rich people. First, there is His instruction to the rich young man to "go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven." Then, after the rich young man went away sorrowful, Jesus explains, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven." 
Taken by themselves, out of context, these two famous lines from Jesus seem to indicate that salvation is impossible for rich people. The only hope for a rich person seems to be found in becoming poor, selling all of his possessions and giving it all away to the poor. Is this what Jesus means, that rich people cannot go to heaven?
Well, we need to see two points of clarification to get some context:
1. The rich young man had claimed to be morally blameless according to the Law (v. 20). Thus, it seems likely that Jesus was exposing his idolatry to him and was showing him what his real god was, his wealth.
2. Right after Jesus says how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, His disciples ask "Who then can be saved?" Jesus response was all-inclusive when He said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 
With these two points of clarifying context, we can now see that Jesus' teaching in these verses matches what the rest of Scripture says about salvation:
1. No one can save themselves by keeping the Law.
2. We all have idols that keep us from the worship of the one true God.
3. Only God's grace can change our hearts, remove our idols, forgive our sins and grant us eternal life.
So, is it hard for rich people to be saved? No, it's not hard; it's impossible - bot no more so than for anyone else. Do rich people need to sell their possessions and give their wealth to the poor? Maybe, if their wealth is their idol. But all of us need to pray for the grace to get rid of our heart idols, to throw them away that we might worship God alone!

Prayer Based on Psalm 46:

Lord God, You are our refuge and strength,
    a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
    though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam,
    though the mountains tremble at its swelling.

There is a river, even Your Holy Spirit, whose streams make glad the city of God,
    Your church, the holy habitation of the Most High.
You are in the midst of us; by Your gracious presence, we shall not be moved;
    You, our God, will help us when morning dawns, at just the right time.
The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
    You utters Your voice, the earth melts.
You, O Lord of hosts, Commander of the armies of heaven, are always with us;
    You, the God of Jacob, are our fortress.

When Jesus returns again and ushers in Your glorious kingdom on earth,
we will behold the works of the Lord,
    how You will have brought desolations on the earth.
You will make wars cease to the end of the earth;
    You will break the bow and shatter the spear;
    You will burn the chariots with fire.
All the weapons of the world will be worthless before You and You will speak:
“Be still, and know that I am God.
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth!”

You, O Lord of hosts, Commander of the armies of heaven, are always with us;
    You, the God of Jacob, are our fortress.

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