Matthewby Mike Raiter
Jesus has already given the disciples the example of a small child as a model of those who will enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:1-5). A child's low status reflects the kind of humility that should characterise God's people. The disciples' abrupt rejection of small children who are brought to Jesus shows how little they understand what it means to follow Jesus (vv. 13-15).
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught the disciples about the character of the righteous: poor, meek, hungry, and mournful (Matthew 5:1-12). In other words, the righteous, like little children, recognise they are essentially needy and dependent. Jesus then taught His followers the path of radical righteousness (Matthew 5:17-48). True righteousness goes beyond outward observance of the law to heartfelt love. Those who practise that righteousness are perfect, or complete (Matthew 5:48).
Now in verses 16 to 22, Matthew gives us a negative example of the kind of childlike faith Jesus has been calling for. Jesus meets a man whose confidence in gaining eternal life rests on a superficial understanding of keeping the commandments. He wonders if there is more he can do (v. 20). Jesus' answer is a challenge to completely reorient one's life by following Him and turning away from reliance on ″works″ (v. 21). Jesus has already said that we cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), and so He commands the man to show where his heart truly lies by giving his wealth to the poor and becoming His follower. If he does that, he will demonstrate that he understands the will of God. Then he will be perfect, or complete, making up what he knows is lacking. Sadly, he cannot surrender to this radical call to discipleship, to true righteousness.
As he departs, Jesus says it is impossible for a rich man to be saved. The surprised disciples then ask, ″But who can?″, because the Jews believe wealth is an indication of God's favour. Jesus replies that while a man cannot save himself, with God ″all things are possible″ (v. 26). God's way is for us to be the poor and needy who depend on Him. Those who humbly surrender their all to follow Christ will be abundantly rewarded now, and then enter eternal life. Though considered nobodies by worldly standards, they shall be first in His kingdom. Conversely, those who seemed the most ″successful″, who have relied on themselves, will be the last to find it (v. 30).
The Bible calls on God's people to live righteous lives, but it reminds us that this is only possible through the power of God. His amazing grace empowers us, first to believe, then to continue willingly and joyfully walking down the costly road of sacrificial love and service.
Is Jesus commanding every Christian to ″sell your possessions and give to the poor″ (v. 21)? If not, how can we faithfully apply what He is calling us to do?
Why is it so hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (v. 23)? What does this mean to those of us who live comfortably?