Matthew 19:23
Jesus draws a lesson of sad warning from. the failure of the young ruler who could not bring himself to make the great sacrifice required as a condition of his obtaining eternal life. He points out the exceeding difficulty of a rich man's entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

I. THE EXPLANATION OF THE DIFFICULTY. It is wholly on the side of the man who is hindered and hampered by his wealth. God has opened the gate and invited all who will to enter. He is no respecter of persons. He does not favour the rich to the neglect of the poor; and he does not favour the poor and deal harshly with the rich. He is just and fair with all. But the rich man has hindrances in himself.

1. The absorbing interest of riches. The danger is that the wealthy man should be satisfied with his possessions; or, as that is impossible unless he is partially stupefied by them, that they should so fill his life that he should not have time or thought for better things. He may be buried under the load of his own goods, lost in the mazes of his forest of possessions.

2. The deceitful promise of riches. Jesus spoke of the deceitfulness of riches as one of the weeds that spring up and choke the Word (Matthew 13:22). if wealth does not yet satisfy, still it promises future satisfaction. The rich man comes to think he can buy all he wants, if only he can find the right market.

3. The foolish pride of riches. If ever a man has a right to be proud, it is on account of what he is, not because of what he has. The owner of millions may be a miserable coward, sensual sot, a senseless fool. Yet the disgraceful sycophancy of the world teaches him to regard himself as a superior person. Now, pride is the most effectual harrier to the entrance of the kingdom of heaven. Only the lowly and humble and childlike can creep through its humble doorway.

4. The hardening selfishness of riches. Wealth, though it gives the means of helping others, tends to seal up the fountains of generosity and destroy the springs of sympathy. The self-indulgent man cannot enter that kingdom, the citizens of which have to deny themselves and carry the cross.

II. THE LESSONS OF THE DIFFICULTY.

1. The folly of covetousness. Why should we make haste to be rich, if riches may become a curse to us? If in any case they are likely to bring fresh difficulties, should we be so anxious to acquire them? How is it that so many Christian people are to be found eagerly pursuing the race for wealth?

2. The duty of contentment. We may never get riches. What of that if we have the kingdom of heaven, which is far better? Perhaps we are spared a dangerous temptation.

3. The need of sympathy with the difficulties of rich men. Jesus did not denounce the young man who made the great refusal. He loved him and pitied him. If rich men fail, we should remember that they were beset with temptations that do not fall to the lot of most of us.

4. Faith in the power of God. The rich man is gravely warned. He is in serious danger. He may fail miserably, crushed by the load of his own wealth. His salvation would be a miracle. But God can work miracles. Though it be as hard for a rich man to save himself as for a camel to pass like a thread through a needle's eye, God can save him. Therefore

(1) the rich should have the gospel preached to them;

(2) we should pray for the rich;

(3) we should rejoice greatly that there are rich men in the kingdom of God. - W.F.A.







That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven:
I. HINDRANCES.

1. Riches tend to obscure faith; to make one trust in them, instead of in God.

2. They encourage their possessor to love the world, and to withhold his heart from God.

3. They exclude disinterested love and goodwill toward others.

4. They hinder humility. People dare not tell a rich man of his faults, so he seldom gets an opportunity of mending them.

5. They prevent meekness.

6. They make a man hard and unyielding, difficult to convince of what is true, unwilling to be persuaded, or to submit m any way to others.

II. TEMPTATIONS.

1. To atheism. With riches a man seems dependent on no one. He thinks himself his own master.

2. To idolatry. From the worship of no God there is an easy transition to, the worship of false gods. He who loves not the Creator will certainly love the creature, e.g., the gratification of the outward senses. Not necessarily gluttony and drunkenness, destroying the body. A moderate sensuality, a regular kind of epicurism will be quite enough to keep the soul dead to God and all true religion.

3. To the gratification of the imagination — beautiful houses, elegant furniture, curious pictures, delightful gardens. Innocent in themselves, how do all these things draw off the mind from more serious pursuits!

4. To self-inflation.

5. Pride.

6. Salt-will.

7. Contempt of inferiors.

8. Fretfulness and peevishness. A gentleman of large fortune, while we were seriously conversing, ordered a servant to throw some coals on the fire. As he did so, a puff of smoke came out, on which the gentleman threw himself back in his chair and cried out, "Oh, Mr. Wesley, these are the crosses which I meet with every day!" I could not help asking, "Pray, Sir John, are these the heaviest crosses you meet with!" Surely these crosses would not have fretted him so much if he had had only fifty pounds a year, instead of five thousand.

(John Wesley.)

It is hard to carry a full cup with a steady hand. High places are dizzy places, and full many have fallen to their eternal rain through climbing aloft without having grace to look up. Trailing robes raise a dust, and gather upon themselves all sorts of filthiness, besides being subjected to needless wear and tear. A man may have so much of this world that he misses the next. His long robe may trip him up in the race for the heavenly prize, and he may fall a victim to the wealth he idolized. Alas, for the poor rich! Faring sumptuously every day, and yet full often strangers to that deep and peerless joy which belongs to those who, in the deep waters of poverty, find a boundless bliss in trusting God. When the rich are saved they should count it a miracle of grace, and feel great gratitude to Him who enables a camel to go through the eye of a needle, notwithstanding his hump.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

for of all sins this is one of the most insidious. It is like the silting up of a river. As the stream comes down from the land it brings with it sand and earth, and deposits all these at its mouth, so that by degrees, unless the conservators catch it carefully, it will block itself up, and leave no channel for ships of great burden. By daily deposit it imperceptibly creates a bar which is dangerous to navigation. Many a man when he begins to accumulate wealth commences at the same moment to ruin his soul; and the more he acquires, the more closely he blocks up his liberality, which is, so to speak, the very mouth of spiritual life. Instead of doing more for God, he does less; the more he saves, the more he wants; and the more he wants of this world, the less he cares for the world to come.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Pope Adrian VI. said that nothing befell him more unhappy in all his life than that he had been the head of the Church and monarch of the Christian commonwealth. Another pope said that when he first entered into orders he had some good hopes of his salvation; when he became a cardinal he doubted it; but since he was made pope he almost despaired of it.

Let rich men often ruminate this terrible text, and take heed. Let them untwist their cables, that is, their heart, by humiliation (James 1:10; James 5:1), till it be made like small threads, as it must be, before they can enter into the eye of a needle, that is, eternal life.

(John Trapp.)

When we read history, whether it be the history of Dives in the parable, or of Shylock in the play, we see how hard wealth can make men — how it can contract their vision and dwarf their aspirations and extinguish their sympathies. Nay, when we read the lives of our fellow-men, as they are lived alongside of us, we see how wealth can benumb the conscience and brutalize the moral sense, so that a rich man's career shall remind you of nothing so much as those buccaneers of the Spanish main with whom might made right, and who knew no law but the law of triumphant audacity. When one notes these things and sees what a power there is in the possession of wealth to stimulate the instincts of cruelty and a petty revenge, and to extinguish those finer traits which make life sweet and sunny — above all, when one sees how riches rear a dome of brass over so many human lives, and ,hake heaven and Christ and the life to come as unlonged-for and unappreciated as would be a lock of a dead child's hair to a pawnbroker — then one can at least understand why Christ should pronounce the solemn words which are recorded here.

(Bishop H. C. Potter.)

I. THAT RICHES ENGROSS THE AFFECTIONS.

II. MEN CONSIDER WEALTH AS THE CHIEF GOOD, and when this is obtained think they have gained all.

III. They are PROUD OF THEIR WEALTH, and are unwilling to be numbered with the poor and despised followers of Jesus.

IV. RICHES ENGROSS THE TIME, fill the mind with cares and anxieties, and leave little for God.

V. They OFTEN PRODUCE LUXURY, dissipation, and vice.

VI. IT IS DIFFICULT TO OBTAIN WEALTH WITHOUT SIN, avarice, covetousness, fraud, and oppression (1 Timothy 6:9, 10, 17; James 5:1-5; Luke 12:16-21; Luke 16:19-31). All these may be overcome. God can give grace to do it. Though to men it may appear impossible, yet it is easy for God (ver. 26).

(A. Barnes, D. D.)

Heaven is a stately palace, with a narrow portal; there must be both stripping and straining ere one can get through this strait gate. The greatest wealth is ordinarily tumoured up with the greatest swelth of rebellion against God. Pride breeds in wealth as the worm doth in the apple, and he is a great rich man indeed and greater than his riches, that doth not think himself great because he is rich. Have them we may, and use them too; but mind them we may not, nor love them; that is spiritual harlotry, such as God's soul hateth, and He smiteth His hands at.

(John Trapp.)

The Hive.
Though we may not be exposed to this danger, thinking of it may free us from envy. There is danger in —

I. The ACQUISITION: fraud, etc., heart drawn away from God.

II. The POSSESSION: hoarded, they beget covetousness; enjoyed, lead to riot, etc., may be loved inordinately; trusted in, may lead to pride and contempt of the poor. Learn —

1. A difficult thing to get wealth rightly, and use it well.

2. An awful thing to die a rich man in a world of so much sorrow; give an account of stewardship.

3. Do not envy the rich.

4. Remember that the true and lasting riches may be easily got.

(The Hive.)

The danger of the possession of wealth being admitted, let us now examine a few of the causes of this danger.

1. There is a fascination in the ownership of money, for it represents much of this world's power; there are few worldly things it cannot purchase. Besides, there is a satisfaction to the rich man in counting his money, in the quiet contemplation, the secret consciousness of the power which if he pleases he cam wield through it.

2. Money takes from man the feeling of dependence on God. Possessing it, he is apt to say to himself, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years" — why then should he trouble about possible future wants, when his income is so far above his expenditure? — and hence his state of mind is entirely opposed to the spirit in which we are taught to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." The possession of wealth is therefore destructive of humility, of dependence upon God.

3. Riches incline a man in all ways to lean upon the world, which provides him with too much in which he delights, to make this world his home, thus hindering him from looking up; for we cannot live by faith and sight any more than we can serve two masters.

4. The possession of wealth tempts a man to be self-indulgent; to a needless display of magnificence in himself and his surroundings. Through the pleasures his wealth creates he soon gets entangled, and the daily cross of a disciple of Christ is altogether kept out of sight; the soul's eye becomes darkened, the affairs of time seem to be the only reality, those of eternity a shadow, a dream about which the man who is happy need not trouble himself. But there are many who have the feeling that they are not rich, and cannot therefore be concerned in the danger which the possession of riches brings. This may be true in one sense, but then "riches" is a word having different meanings to different people. Again, many who have not money look upon its acquisition as the aim of life, and accept success in gaining it as the measure of happiness. Many suffer the danger of the rich, because their thoughts are all centred on becoming rich. Labour being the ordinance of God, we ought to be able to find in our work the path allotted to us by His will. We should love God, not self, the centre, the ultimate aim of our toil. But not one of us, left to himself, is capable of efficiently discharging the responsibilities entailed by the possession of wealth; we need to be sustained by God.

(Canon Gregory.)

When a man is to travel into a far country, a great burden at his back will but hinder him in his journey; one staff in his hand may comfortably support him, but a bundle of staves would trouble him. Thus a competency of these outward things may happily help us in the way to heaven, whereas abundance may be hurt. ful, and, like long garments to a man that walks on in the way, will trip up our heels too, if we look not well about us.

(Sibbes.)

Thorns are the shelter for serpents, and riches the den of many sins. Riches is a warm nest where lust securely sits to hatch all her unclean brood.

(Adams.)

Our Saviour, indeed, doth not speak of an impossibility, but of the difficulty of it and the rareness of it. Job unfolded the riddle, and got trough the needle's eye with three thousand camels. But it is hard to be wealthy and not wanton; too often are riches, like birdlime, hindering the soul in its flight towards heaven.

(Swinnock.)

A man in the very prime of life was lying on his death-bed. Paralysis had seized upon his body. It was creeping up, slowly and surely, to, his heart. His very hours were numbered. A faithful minister of God sat beside him, showing him the way of life. He was agonized in the effort to listen, to comprehend, but the old habit of years bound him so firmly that he could not fix his mind upon what his friend was saying. His life had been spent in the acquisition of wealth. Honestly, honourably it had been gained. There was no stain upon it, but yet it proved the millstone to drag him down. "Why, why!" he exclaimed in a voice of keenest anguish, "at this awful moment, can I think of nothing but my bank stock?"

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