FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
ENTERING THE KINGDOM OF GOD
August 16, 2011
Today’s reading: Matthew 19:23-30
Jesus gives a startling teaching: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19:23). This was surprising to the disciples because wealth in the Old Testament was a sign of God’s favor.
Then he presses the point further, “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 19:24). Why is it hard, or almost impossible, for the rich to make it to heaven?
Money is a hard taskmaster. It demands all of one’s allegiance. People want more and more money, people commit great crimes to take money, people invest much of their time, energy and talents to make money. Siblings fight over inheritance, business competitors kill rivals, civil servants sell the nation down the drain by taking bribes.
Now we might say that we are none of those people. But we must admit that most look to money as a very important part of their lives. Now Jesus says we cannot serve God and mammon, because they are both masters. We will hate one and love the other. So if we love money, then we hate God. If we hate God, then we cannot make it to heaven.
But we might say that we are not even materially rich, and we know and follow Jesus. Well, such people can also fall short, if they do not give to God what is due to Him for the cause of the Kingdom. These are those who do not tithe, that is, give to God 10% of their income. God says through the prophet Malachi that such people are accursed because they rob Him. One who is accursed cannot make it to heaven.
Now you who are reading this, since you do not tithe (does that mean you love money more than God?), may be greatly astonished and say as the disciples said, “Who then can be saved?” (Mt 19:25). Jesus acknowledges the inherent weakness and sinfulness of humanity, and points to God for salvation (Mt 19:26). We cannot overcome greed and selfishness merely by human power. We can only rely on the grace and strength of God.
How do we allow the grace and strength of God to make salvation possible for us?
First, even as you are greatly astonished by Jesus’ teaching, do not ignore it. Do not shrug it off. Do not justify your present situation (it is easy to give all sorts of good excuses for serving mammon or not giving a full tithe). Accept what Jesus says, and ask for His wisdom and grace to understand and live out what is right.
Second, start giving. If you cannot give a full 10% (that is the definition of a tithe), then just give some amount, any amount. It will get you into the habit of giving. Then, as you move along, perhaps as you pray daily, the Lord will convict you as to the smallness of what you are giving to Him. Then you can start building up to the 10%, and beyond.
How about our needs? Well, the Lord can never be outdone in generosity. Through Malachi, God challenges His people to bring the whole tithe into the storehouse and experience how He opens up the floodgates of blessings. To Peter who said he and the disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus (Mt 19:27), Jesus tells them they will sit with him in glory at the end of time (Mt 19:28). On a practical basis, Jesus also says: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more” (Mt 19:29a).
Opening of the floodgates! Receiving a hundred times more! What a deal! We give up everything that is earthly and human, we get back everything that is of God. And as the biggest bonus, we “will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19:29b). It is hard or impossible for the rich to enter heaven. It is the inheritance of those who give up everything for Jesus to enter heaven.
The kingdom of God is full of seeming contradictions. The “first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mt 19:30). The kingdom of God does not function according to human wisdom. Those who give actually receive. Those who keep less for themselves will get more from God. The rich on earth will not be rich in the kingdom. Those who give up wealth on earth will receive bountiful blessings including eternal life. What is impossible for man is possible with God.
So serve God not mammon. Detach from materialism and consumerism and embrace Kingdom economics. Be poor in the things of the world but rich in the things of heaven. Give up houses and receive the key to the mansion reserved for you in heaven. Give up lands and enter into the promised land. Give up relatives, for the sake of Jesus, and follow him who is firstborn among many brothers into heaven.
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