But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26 AMP
The story of the rich young man–I’m sure many of us have heard it before. A young rich man comes to Jesus asking how he may obtain eternal life. He specifically asks what “good work” he could do to get to heaven. When Jesus tells him to keep the commandments, the young man quickly lets Jesus know he’s kept them since he was little. This young man was not only rich but also a good, moral person. He just couldn’t understand what he lacked, so he asked Jesus, “What do I still lack?”
Jesus’ response? “If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” (Matthew 19:21 AMP).
Unfortunately, this did not please the young man, who in turn went away sad. Why was this so hard for him to hear, such a hard pill to swallow? Well, this young man was depending on his good deeds and abundance of possessions to earn him eternal life. Yet Jesus effectively told the man that neither money nor being good would get him to heaven. It will get none of us there. Getting to heaven is not an outward position we can achieve; it is a spiritual condition we must receive.
It is in receiving Jesus that we may obtain eternal life in heaven. It is in following Jesus we learn that it is not our status with man that saves us. It’s not the amount of money we have or don’t have. It’s not how many followers we have on Twitter or Facebook. It’s not even how many verses of the Bible we know or how many people think we’re good Christians. Getting to heaven is a matter of the heart. When the rich young ruler went away sad, he went away sad because his heart had not yet been transformed. He was still trying to obtain salvation through external works. He had not yet let go of his earthly god in order to cling to the one true God.
Who was the young man’s earthly god? Money. Status. Morality. In other words, the things of this world were the focus of this young man. He equated earthly success with heavenly rewards. Yet Jesus in essence told the young man, as He told many people, that God’s economy is different than ours. Jesus told the young man he’d have to let go of earthly possessions and earthly position in order to grab hold of the true riches and true rewards.
To obtain eternal life, the young man had to let go of this one.
But he couldn’t do it. He wasn’t ready. He wasn’t willing.
The people were at first shocked that a rich person would not be able to enter heaven. After all, they had been trained to equate wealth with God’s blessing. If someone had money, then that person must be highly favored by God. Yet Jesus came and turned that around. He said it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. Why? Well, I tend to believe it is a matter of where we put our trust. The rich young ruler trusted his money and his good works and his status as means of achieving salvation. I don’t blame him; it’s human nature. It is easy for us to want to place our trust in the good things in life. It is easier to trust in the tangible treasures of life. When things go well, we assume we must be doing something right. When things go wrong, we wonder what we did to deserve such atrocities.
Earthly wealth and prosperity, however, mean nothing in relation to salvation. Money doesn’t transfer to heaven. Status doesn’t transfer to heaven. Jesus Himself often reminded His followers that many who put themselves first in this life will be last in the next. There will be many rich, good people in Hell.
So what can we learn from this rich man’s encounter with Jesus? First, we must see the hope. Jesus Himself declares that what may appear impossible is indeed possible–with God. God is the key. You see, the focus of our trust–the source of our security–is in essence our god. In the above passage, the young man had placed his hope in wealth, morality, and status. These earthly treasures may have gotten him far in this life; but they earned him nothing in the next. In other words, Jesus was effectively telling the young man and all His disciples that when it depends on man, salvation is impossible.
But with God.
I’ll say that again. But with God…all things–even the salvation of a rich man–are possible.
When the rich man surrenders to the Savior.
This is how each of us obtains eternal life. It is the only way we obtain eternal life in heaven.
So I ask you now, in whom or what do you trust? Man? Money? Feelings? Work? Ministry? Where do you place your hopes, your dreams, your security? If someone were to ask you why you believe you will go to heaven when you die, what will your response be? Let me tell you now that any answer other than Jesus indicates your heart is not where it needs to be. If you place your heart in anything or anyone on this earth, you are placing your future in the wind. You are placing your future in something that will perish with the earth. Nothing and no one can save you. All the money, accolades, accomplishments, friends, and family in the world will never make you good enough to enter heaven. You could buy the whole world, yet lose your soul. Even if the world adores you and considers you a saint, if you place your trust in anything but Jesus, your future is Hell. Morality doesn’t save you. Money doesn’t save you. Being in ministry doesn’t save you. Jesus saves you. You must be clothed in His righteousness–His alone–for your righteousness is as filthy rags.
Therefore I conclude with this today: true righteousness is impossible with man. Obtaining heaven is impossible with man. Yet all things are possible with God. Even the salvation of a rich man. Even the salvation of YOU. So place your faith in Him today. Let Him remove those filthy rags and clothe you with His robe of righteousness. Let Him transform your heart and mind from the inside out. Let Him be God in your life. And as you follow Him, you can go forth in joy knowing, “...nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37).