Read Matthew 19: 13-30
Jesus is challenging us as His followers to care for children in a culture that mostly ignored them or considered them nuisances. Why? How we care for our young is a reflection of our maturity and values. The wealth of relationships and family supercede the world's wealth, and who we are in Christ supercedes it all. We have to realize our position and our blessings so we can have it all by getting rid of it all. Wealth may seem like a big asset to possess, but it can be a big burden that gets in the way of His Way. Its richness is shallow and temporary; we can have so much more through Him!
The rich man refused to see his sin or to repent. He was only able to see his needs and desires. These desires became his barrier to knowing and growing in Christ. We are never to think too highly of ourselves lest pride comes in to ruin us. Pride removes God from our equation of life and relationships. It removes honesty and sincerity. Jesus tells us never to allow money to stand in His Way. When we do, it blocks us off from the true treasures and blessings He has for us! If you fear you will lose out in happiness or lose out in what seems important, the fact is-you won't! Wealth is a false god that subjugates us; Christ frees us and blesses us!
We have to care! The Disciples saw children as a nuisance; Jesus had to point to their role as caregivers, and to the children as blessings. Adults often trample over children and fail to consider their feelings or potential impact. Adults often fail to see how their actions affect the future and mindset of children. In so doing we do this with our relationships with others and Christ too! This all comes from our spiritual growth that builds our faith which then produces our character and Christian maturity!
We need to beware that pushing people away who are called by God or who are seeking His help (this includes children) will bring grave repercussions (2 Kings 4:27; 5:27). Children must be considered as precious agents of God whom we are called to care for and teach, to help form and to educate. When we subjugate children, we subjugate our future and society into dysfunction and chaos.
Christ calls the children to come to Him. Good parents help their children come to Him by modeling His character and teaching His precepts with love and care. Anything else would be heinous, such as not loving, caring for, or teaching them.
The other main point that this passage teaches us? To enter the Kingdom of Heaven requires the kind of trust and faith in Christ that a child has that they will be cared for. It also means to be dependent on God and not on self. Children cannot achieve or pay for their own way just as we cannot do so for our place in heaven (Matt. 18:1-9).
Jesus wants us to get rid of what distracts and hinders us. Go sell to the poor. Jesus' demands are radical. He is showing that what we think is important is not, and what we lack, is. What we lack is spiritual maturity and a sense of what is really important. This young man in this passage failed. Greek and Jewish upper class people often were so self-absorbed they would not even respond to confrontation, or do anything that would be out of their way.
It is easer for a camel. This was humor, as if Jesus is performing stand up comedy, much like you would see in a comedy club or on TV, except clean and with a very important point. This was also a figure of speech where people compared something to the impossible to make a point, as Jesus did in Matthew 16:21-28 (Psalm 24; 23; Prov. 17:22; 26:1-17; Matt. 5:39, 46; 6:24; 7:3-5,16; 12:48-49; 15:14; 17:24-27; 19:24; 23: 24, 27; Luke 11: 5-13; 12:13-21;15:1-7).
Eye of a needle. Most people consider it the hammered and bent portion of a small iron or brass needle used for sewing, but archeological evidence and the Talmud suggest this could also be the name for a small gate into Jerusalem that was used for people and not animals. It was like a small maze to keep predators and animals out and deter attacking forces by slowing them down. They would get stuck in the gate and could easily be defeated. Perhaps it meant both. Either way, to the first century Jew, this was hilarious! Jesus got people's attention, and He used humor.
Rich were, as today, both loved and despised, the reasons being because of oppression, being jealous or envious, or desiring their favor. Jewish leaders tended to give the places of honor to the rich and treated them well. They also promised eternal security in exchange for donations, as did the Church prior to the Reformation. This was not official, but it was practiced. Jesus is not saying the rich will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven; rather, they have far more hurdles to get over than most are willing to do. Some rabbis taught that the rich must give all their wealth to the poor before they could enter heaven.
Jesus is making the point that we enter Heaven, not by our means, our wealth, or influence, but only by God's grace and mercy. We can do nothing to earn or pay our way (Eph. 2:8-9)!
The way of God is not about "feel good" comfort and self gratification; rather, it is an eternal perspective with a life that is created, honed, and ruled by the Lord of the Universe. People with fewer assets to lose are more willing to accept Christ because they see they have less to give up. People with influence and wealth have more to lose, so they think, and reject Christ or put limits on their faith and on what they are willing to do. The touchtone theme of Jesus' point is how we come before God. It is not about whom we are in the world or what we can do. It is not about us at all; it is all about Him, about God's love, God's grace, and God's mercy. Children are far better at modeling humility and trust than adults because we have so much baggage from life; we need to be stripped of what holds us back. Perhaps, that is the main reason we have children and spend so much time in our childhood-to learn trust, abiding, and love. We learn them, and then we tend to forget them and switch to other things that distract us. Allow the children to remind you about faith and the important things in life. Allow Christ to strip you to your bare self, with no distractions or concerns other than to see Him! The only way we can receive His regeneration, the Kingdom of Heaven, is by our abiding trust. Let the children and Christ teach you!
1. What were you like as a child? What happens to you when you think too highly of yourself? What happens to your relationship with others, and how do you feel when another person is prideful toward you?
2. Do you believe that the wealth of relationships and family supercedes the world's wealth? Why, or why not?
3. How can wealth be a burden that gets in the way of His Way? How can it not be?
4. What can children teach you about faith? What can you teach them? How does this promote your faith? What can you learn from a child to help you in modeling humility?
5. Jesus confronts the man with his own question and need. What needs do you have that need confrontation?
6. Jesus is showing that what we think is important, is not, and what we lack, is. So, can you list what is important to you and honestly evaluate its importance to Christ and His call to you?
7. What is the point Jesus is making about how we enter Heaven? Do most Christians realize this point? Why, or why not?
8. Can you explain the ways of God versus the ways of how you or the world would like to do things?
9. What do you need to be stripped of? How would being stripped (what needs to be given up, uncovered, revealed) improve your faith and relationships?
10. Explain in your own words how we come before God. This can be a big help to your witness and understating of faith.
© 2004, R.J. Krejcir, Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.discipleshiptools.org/