Matthew 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
In Jesus’ day, it was assumed that there was a correlation between one’s faithfulness to God and one’s material wealth. As such, the disciples hear this as a shocking statement by Jesus.
But it still begs the question why? Why do rich people have difficulty entering the Kingdom? I don’t believe it’s that Jesus doesn’t love people of means. Rather I think it may be connected to the issue of dependence. Dependence on God is a key to experience Gods kingdom at work. Desperate people are often the ones who experience kingdom breakthroughs.
This understanding would help make sense of Paul’s teaching that Gods power is made perfect, not in strength, but in weakness. It’s the reason why in Luke 10 Jesus sends the disciples out with no money or staff or food or extra clothes. They are to be completely dependent on God for everything. And in that state of complete dependence they are empowered to heal people in Jesus name.
Its in the desperate situation of thousands of hungry people that a few fish and loaves of bread are more than enough.
It helps explain what Jesus means when he says the first shall be last and the last shall be first in the kingdom of Cod. The first, with their wealth and status and power and privilege, don’t generally experience acute need in the way the least do. Hence the least are far more likely to inherent the kingdom of God because the kingdom of God is all they have.
It’s why Jesus, when asked by a pious but wealthy man, what more he must do to inherit eternal life Jesus challenges the man to sell his belongings. Why? Because without his vast resources he would enter a state of acute dependence on God and experience Gods power and provision in a new way. But the man refused to do so and left disappointed.
Now there are many other forms of desperation than financial: emotional, relational, spiritual, physical, professional, and so on. And people of means can – and do – experience dependence in these ways.
This morning I’m thinking about the professional desperation of change leadership. There was a time in my life when I was constantly entering leadership challenges that were far beyond my known competence: starting a church, ministering in the inner city as a suburban boy, confronting demons and spiritual forces of evil, preaching the gospel in places that are hostile to Christianity, learning to serve as a leader of other pastors, and more. It was scary as hell and difficult on multiple levels but it was also in that space that I saw Gods kingdom manifest most powerfully. What am I talking about?
I’ve seen God manifest great generosity among people living in poverty in the barrio of San Antonio. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit come over people so powerfully they could no longer stand up but fell to the ground. I’ve seen people freed from demons. Ive seen a young boy deaf from birth startled and crying, then laughing, when he heard his mother’s voice for the first time. I saw a man who was diagnosed as terminal get up and walk out of the hospital that same day. I’ve seen the Lord bring rain (within 30 minutes of prayer) to a Muslim village in which the people were experiencing drought. There’s more.
These are fond memories, but I also remember the pain of constantly being in over my head, unsure of what to do next, acutely aware of my incompetence. And to be honest that kind of leadership season is incredibly difficult. It’s not something anyone would seek out, but is the result of a call of God.
Today I’m asking the Lord how I’m being invited to choose desperation for the sake of the kingdom. Lord speak for your servant is listening. Amen.