Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to 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.” (Matthew 19:23-24)
One day a rich young man came to Jesus and asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life.” He was somehow sensing a lack in his life, a disconnectedness from God, from heaven, even from life itself.
Jesus answered him simply, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He knew that was where the problem lay, as well as the solution the young man thought he was seeking.
“Which ones?’ the young man asked. Jesus named a few, notably, the ones that pertain to relationship with others (the Fifth through Ninth Commandments). “All these things I have kept from my youth,” said the young man, and yet he still knew that something very important was missing in his life.
Then Jesus gave this startling reply: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” The young man went away greatly saddened because he had many possessions. Or as some have wisely noted, his possessions had him.
You see, the real problem was that he was trusting in his possessions, looking to them to be his source and supply. But in doing so, he was breaking the very first commandment: “I am the LORD your God; you shall have no other gods before Me.” This young man’s wealth and possessions had become his idols, usurping the place of God in his life. He was banking on them, instead of on God, to take care of him.
The young man departed and we do not know whatever became of him. But consider what would have happened if he had done as Jesus had told him. He would have entered into eternal life, the zoe life offered by God, the life Jesus came to bring us in abundance. Not only that, he would have discovered that he could trust God to take care of him and be his source of supply. He would have been banking on heaven.
“You will have treasure in heaven,” Jesus said. What is a treasury? Simply a storehouse. What is the purpose of a storehouse? It is a place where you keep things until you need them. “Treasure in heaven” is not God’s way to keep us from the things we need in this life. Quite the opposite, it is how God preserves for us the things we need in this life. When we commit ourselves and our means to the kingdom of God and His purposes, thieves cannot break in and steal them, varmints cannot consume them, and rust, rot and mold cannot corrupt them.
Watch how it works: Jesus told the young man to sell what he had and give to the poor, and he would have treasure in heaven. The Bible says, “He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, and He will pay back what He has given” (Proverbs 19:17). Perhaps the rich young man forgot this, but Jesus didn’t.
Now, here is an interesting thing about the Hebrew word for “lend,” lavah. It means to entwine or join together, as in an arrangement between two people. It is used of the relationship between a lender and a borrower. When we give to the poor, God makes a deal with us where we are the lender and He is the borrower. God always makes good on His debts. The Hebrew word for “pay back” is shalam, and in this arrangement means that He will reciprocate, recompense, and restore. And when God repays, it is always with interest.
If this young man would have sold what he had to sell and given out of it to the poor, he would have had an account with God in the bank of heaven. Then when he himself was in need, God would have repaid him handsomely. But his money and possessions had become his idol, and he trusted in them more than he did in God. And he went away sorrowful.
When we bank our treasure in heaven, God will meet our needs on earth.
The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew
by Jeff Doles
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