Jesus had a lot to say about the rich who thought only of themselves and oppressed the poor. He didn’t protect them from the natural consequences of being abusers. But Jesus isn’t an Occupy Wallstreeter who sees the world in simplistic terms. He knows the hearts of man.
Joseph of Arimethea accepted Christ and remained a rich man afterward. But wait, you can’t come to God as a wealthy person … right? Wrong. Lots of followers of Christ were wealthy. Lydya, the seller of purple cloth. Barnabas certainly had material means. Philemon was clearly a rich man.
But, but, but … it’s just as impossible for a rich man to get to heaven as a camel to thread the eye of a sewing needle. That’s in the Bible!
Ah, yes, taking verses out of context with surrounding verses and with the culture in which they were written has its downsides.
No camel ever threaded the eye of a sewing needle, but many camels have walked on their knees through the man gate of a closed larger city gate. Jesus’ listeners understood the reference. It isn’t impossible — just very hard, but you also need to pay attention to the full verse, not just the part you like.
Luke 18:24-27 “When Jesus noticed this, He said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! In fact, 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.” Those who heard this said, “Then who can be saved?” He replied, “What is impossible for mere humans is possible for God.”
Most people come to Jesus because they feel a lack in their life, but when you are surrounded by wealth, it is easier to trust in your personal resources than to trust in God. Rich people therefore have a harder time seeing that they have a need that only Jesus can fill. They are more likely to want to solve whatever ails them with their own resources. The poor are more likely to recognize that they can’t solve their own problems because life shows them that they lack resources and, therefore, they find it easier to relinquish their will to God.
Except … Americans are none of us truly poor. Homeless people have cell phones and shoes, they qualify for government benefits that prevent them from starving. Often they qualify for government housing if they’ll give up drugs and alcohol. There’s a homeless housing project here that doesn’t even require that.
So Americans (and I will submit citizens of most developed countries) really struggle with the understanding that God is the only answer to whatever we lack in life. Our corners are sufficiently padded by government benefits that God is truly not necessary in our physical lives. We have other resources that replace God in our lives.Therefore, it is very hard for 1st worlders to come to Jesus for salvation because we truly don’t see that we need Him.
But what is impossible for man is possible with God!
Ultimately, whether you will be accepted into Heaven has nothing to do with the status of your bank account. God makes these determinations and there is “No rich or poor” before God (Proverbs 22:2, James, 1 Corinthians; Galatians 3:28). There are only people who have obeyed God and people who have disobeyed God. Those who have given themselves to God and agreed to do things His way rather than their own will be accepted in Heaven — even regardless of whether they successfully keep that promise, by the way. Those who followed their own will rather than God’s will at the most basic level of accepting Christ won’t like what God has to say to them at the Judgment. It’s God who makes the decision and His judgement is not based on our petty human measures.
The rich man who gave all his wealth to some worthy cause will not get into heaven unless he gave his will to Jesus. The poor man who never had a dime to his name will not get into heaven unless he gave his will to Jesus. It’s the giving your will to Jesus that is important. What you do after that is evidence of where your will rests, but it’s not what gets you into heaven.
Often people who support socialism think that anyone who opposes socialism is arguing against God, but Jesus was clear — He is the only way to God and believing that He is God is the only way to be acceptable to Him. Your bank account is at best a secondary issue. Once you know Jesus, He’ll get back to you on what to do with your money and His instructions vary according to the believer. Depending on your attitude toward your wealth, He may not have anything to say about it at all.