Christ vividly likened the challenge as that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Whether he meant a certain gate in Jerusalem or what we envision as a sharp sewing tool, the bottom line was that his disciples viewed it as pretty impossible as evidence by their stunned reaction:
The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:20-26)
Of course, there are number of reasons it’s tougher for a person who possesses earthly wealth to follow Christ with such abundant faith:
- It’s easier to trust in riches when you actually have them.
- In this world, riches can look as if they produce safety and security.
- Why trust God when you can just cut a check and be done with it?
But if we stop there, at the stark truth of the challenge, we miss the greater point that Jesus made: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Impossible is Nothing
We like to cite that passage a lot in the Church, but seldom consider the context in which it was given. Christ didn’t scorn the rich person, or decry the evils of the economic system. And he didn’t leave the wealthy without hope to flounder in despair over their affluent predicament.
Quite the opposite. He identified the scenario as an ideal place for God to demonstrate just how great His glorious grace truly is!
Sure, for fallen people, it’s tough for the wealthy to humble themselves, trust in what they cannot see, and live generously. But for God, impossible is nothing. It’s what He does on a regular basis. So when the wealthy live generously out of love for the Kingdom of heaven, they show God doing what they never would — or even could — do on their own.
Their “impossible” lifestyle born of radical faith acts as the shock-and-awe of Kingdom living, the kind that reverberates with the echoes of God’s amazing grace and power in a way few other things can. Thus, the wealthy Christian should not feel guilt over their situation; instead, they should rejoice that they have been uniquely positioned for God to stun a fallen world through their selfless living.
Perhaps it’s because such gracious generosity most closely mimics how the Giver of all good things functions. Perhaps it simply stirs within others a call to a nobler standard. Whatever the reason it is so effective, one thing is sure from Christ’s words: when those who have earthly wealth lay it down for Him, we should prepare to worship.
Because God is doing what we call impossible.