Matthew 19 Commentary: Why Is It Hard for a Rich Man to Enter the Kingdom of God?

By Xiaoliang

When I got up early in the morning, I said a prayer, then opened up the Bible and read the following: “And, behold, one came and said to Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said to him, Why call you Me good? there is none good but One, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments. He said to Him, Which? Jesus said, You shall do no murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and your mother: and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The young man said to Him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said to him, If you will be perfect, go and sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow Me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus to His disciples, Truly I say to you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into 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 into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:16–24). I had read these verses many times, but I didn’t know why it is hard for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom. What did the Lord mean when He told this parable to His disciples? A camel simply cannot go through the eye of a needle, which implies that the rich young man was entirely unable to enter into the kingdom of God. So, what does the Lord want us to understand through this parable?

Jesus Preaching, Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

I read that the Lord Jesus said: “Whoever he be of you that forsakes not all that he has, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). These words shone a light on all before me. The Lord told us to forsake all, including status, fame, wealth, material enjoyment, and so on—all of which can prevent us from following God.

As I contemplated this, I understood why the Lord Jesus asked the rich man to sell all that he had and give to the poor. It turned out that the Lord looked within the rich man’s heart, and knew that he attached importance to wealth in his heart, viewing it as the most important thing. If the rich man could let go of money to follow God, it meant he had a place for God in his heart, was willing to follow God and walk the path of believing in God, and treated gaining the truth and life as what he should pursue above all in his life. However, the rich man went away sorrowful then. This proved that in his opinion, it was all right if he didn’t walk the path of faith all his life, follow the Lord’s way, or even enter into the heavenly kingdom, but to be without money was absolutely impossible. He thought that having money meant having living capital, and that with money he would not have any worries about future consequences, so he put wealth before everything. He believed: “Money isn’t everything, but without it, you can do nothing” and “Money is first.” Therefore, faced with the Lord’s requirement, the rich man chose wealth rather than following the Lord. The rich man’s giving up his life instead of money showed us that for him to enter the heavenly kingdom was indeed as difficult as a camel getting through the eye of a needle.

I then read where the Lord Jesus said: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36–37). A passage of Sermons and Fellowship on Entry Into Life also says: “What’s the most important thing that people (including unbelievers) should gain in life? Is it important to gain money? If you’ve earned lots of money, an illness befalls you, and you die of the illness, then what’s the use of money? What if you buy a nice villa or condominium? If you fall sick and die, who will live there? You may have a good husband (or a good wife) and good children, but if you meet your unfortunate death, what’s the point of having them? All of these are empty. Everything of the material world is empty. To be able to finally obtain God’s praise and a good destination in life—this is the most precious, valuable and important. Tell me, when those who are wealthy have a fatal illness, can they be comforted? (No.) Why do they have no comfort after having so much money? The main reason is because money can’t save their lives. ‘Will man really go to heaven or hell after death?’ This is what they will think about. When someone is dying, what will he ponder? Destination! As a man is in his twilight years, he’ll be able to realize that having a good destination is so important and it’s more precious than anything. Even if he suffers all his life, as long as he can have a good destination, he will smile at the moment of his death. On the contrary, when he is close to death, if he’s enjoyed all the blessings in the world but can’t have a good destination and will go down to hell, he will feel he has wasted his life and taken the wrong path because he fails to gain a good destination. Destination is the most important thing for man. Everything else is not important and is worldly thing.”

sceen in the outside

After reading the Lord’s words and this passage of fellowship, I came to have some knowledge of God’s will. People, who live in this world, often take fame and money as life and treasure, believing that acquiring them enables them to live comfortably, leisurely and freely, and that with money life will not be in vain, so many people long for a great fortune. But when their lives are almost over, they come to realize that money cannot extend their lives and that exhausting their lives for wealth is really not worth it. So, God hopes that through the parable of the rich man, we can grasp the importance of seeking life, escape from the bonds of money, come before Him with one heart and mind to accept His salvation and guidance, and thus have a beautiful destination. God examined the innermost heart of the rich man, who attached importance to money and sought gains. The rich man only wanted to obtain greater interests from God, grasping money on the one hand, and grasping God on the other so he could enter the kingdom of heaven. That was why when God asked him to lay aside all he possessed and distribute them to the poor and then follow God and pursue life, he chose to leave God. The rich man valued property more than the truth, so though he knew the truth perfectly well, he was unwilling to pursue. Therefore, the Lord Jesus said: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” These words were said about the essence of the rich man. Through using this parable, the Lord Jesus wanted us humans to know this: If we cannot give up everything to pursue the truth, seek to know God and be gained by God, then we will not get into God’s kingdom. Contrarily, if our intention in following God and serving God is to believe in God’s words, to love God and satisfy God, and to gain the truth and live out a meaningful life, then we will be able to please the Lord and have the opportunity to enter into God’s kingdom. As it happens, by means of this parable, God wants to let us set the motives for our following Him aright, have the faith to follow Him, and finally gain life.

The Lord Jesus said: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). From the text, we can see that the Lord asks us to serve Him with a single-minded heart, not to worry about our personal future, but to dedicate and expend ourselves in order to care for and satisfy His will. Actually, what the Lord has bestowed upon us is enough for us to enjoy. His intentions are that we can be content with food and clothes, and focus on seeking the truth, spreading the gospel, bearing witness to Him, and following His will. Take Peter, the disciple of the Lord Jesus, for example. During the time he followed the Lord, he focused on pursuing truth and practicing the Lord’s words. After he received the Lord’s commission, he shepherded and nourished the church with all his heart and soul. He never thought of his own future, but only sought to love God all his life, so the Lord Jesus gave the keys of the kingdom of heaven to him. In the end, Peter was martyred for preaching the gospel and lived out a life of meaning.

From this parable, I came to realize that nowadays, many believers’ perspectives on belief in God are just the same as that of the rich young man. After believing in God and reading God’s words, they know that pursuing and gaining the truth is important and has to do with their destinations, yet they still fail to let go of money, fame and gain, and only wish to be wealthy in the world. To this end, they work desperately hard to make money, with the result that they aren’t able to say prayers, practice spiritual devotions or attend meetings in a normal way, and their hearts drift away from God. As a matter of fact, we only live once, and if we give up on the opportunity to believe in God and get the truth and life for the sake of money, or we pursue money while maintaining our faith in God, desiring both of them, our lives will only be forfeited.

The Lord Jesus said: “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much better than they?” (Matthew 6:25–26). God’s words carry authority and power, as well as His compassion and care for man, allowing us to know that as God created all things on earth and in heaven, He also controls and rules them, needless to say. God has arranged the basic necessities suitably for us, and so we need only believe in Him and follow Him. Besides, these words brim with God’s painstaking care and thought, enabling us to understand that we are above any other created being in God’s heart and that He will take responsibility for our lives.

Thanks to the Lord’s guiding me, I came to understand these truths. I believe we now know in our hearts which is actually important: Life, or fame and fortune. The Bible says: “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:8). In our lives, we should not seek riches or a wealthy life, but instead we should be content with sufficient clothing and food. Apart from working normally, for the rest of our time, we should read God’s words more, spread His gospel more, work more in the ministry of the church, and seek to understand the truth. This is what we should enter into.


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Extended reading:

What Does “Blessed Are the Pure in Heart” in Matthew 5:8 Mean?

Do You Know the Meaning of the Lord’s Prayer and How to Seek First the Kingdom of God

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One may ask: The Bible says, “That if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation” (Romans 10:9-10). It says that the one who confesses with the mouth and believes in the heart that Jesus is the Lord is saved. In fact, we do have believed in the Lord; however, does it mean that we have been saved thoroughly? Speaking of the topic of being saved, it is familiar to brothers and sisters. They are all firmly convinced that they have been saved thoroughly since they have believed in the Lord Jesus, and that they will be taken to the kingdom of heaven when the Lord comes again. But is it really the case? What on earth is the true meaning of being saved? Is it true, as we think, that we are saved thoroughly as long as we believe in the Lord Jesus? 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