One night about a week ago, Marc and the older boys were out for men’s Bible study, so I was sat down for evening devotions with the younger children. I had just been practicing sewing with the girls, so I thought it would be a good time to read and discuss the story of Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19:16-30:
16Now 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, obey the commandments.”
18“Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
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.”
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man 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 a rich man 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, “I tell you the truth, 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 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.
We focused on Jesus’ statement, ” it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God,” because we had just been sewing and I thought it was a good object lesson. I asked, “How easy was it for you to put a small piece of thread through the eye of the needle?” (Not easy–they still needed some help from me!) So I asked, “How easy do you think it would be for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle?” (They simply laughed at this idea.)
Going deeper, I asked, “What do you think it means to be rich?” And my five year-old very quickly replied, “It means to have a lot of stuff!” After another few seconds of thought, she waved her arms emphatically to show all that was in the living room and said, “You know…like US!”
Now, I don’t consider us rich. At all. We are nine people in a 1400 square foot house, and we intentionally sold many of our possessions last year when we moved into this home, pretty much in obedience to Jesus’ teachings here. I know we still have a ways to go…and, I know that we are filthy rich compared to people in other parts of the world. So it was a little convicting for my five year-old to say that she still considers us rich. As we continued to talk about Jesus’ words, we were challenged by the thought that our accumulating material possessions could keep us from entering the Kingdom of heaven.
It’s easy to justify accumulation and materialism by saying, “It’s not what we possess, it’s our heart that counts.” Or, “it’s OK to have things, as long as you’re not attached to them.” But what happens if we take Jesus’ words at face value?
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:35)