Dr. Ed Young - Your Money Can Keep You Out of Heaven
Once every generation or so, you have just an outstanding young man come along. He was graduated from high school top of his class, played four sports. Was an excellent athlete. Received a full academic scholarship to Rice University, and there he played two college sports and was Academic All-American in both of those sports. But his graduation from Rice toward the top of his graduating class, a lot of the large corporations all around the world came and he was the kind of guy they wanted to be on their team. They made him a lucrative offer for someone just coming out of school and he was sent to Atlanta, and there as he worked for this corporation, he received his MBA from Emory and he began to be promoted rapidly through the ranks until at 29 years of age he was a vice president.
He was ascending to the top where soon he would be a partner in the corporation, and he was a phenomenal guy. He got up every morning at 5 a.m. and worked out for an hour and a half. He was the first person to get to the office almost every day. He worked tirelessly. He had a dynamic personality. Everybody was drawn to him. On Saturdays he'd go cycling, and he would run a couple of marathons every year. His golfing handicap was a 3, and one of the partners would take him to play the Augusta National, the Masters about every other month. On top of that, he went to a Bible study twice a week in the office that they had, and every Sunday he would go to church and sit down in a pew with a Bible in his hand. He just never missed worshipping on the Lord's Day.
This is the kind of guy that every mother here would say, "Would he like to meet my daughter"? And in modern vernacular we would say, "This is a young guy who's kicking it. Man, he's got every base covered". He was the delight of everybody. This is exactly the kind of guy that Jesus encountered as he was going from Jericho to Jerusalem and this young guy ran up to him, and listen to what took place in the conversation. "As he was setting out on a journey, a man," the guy we're talking about, "ran up to Jesus and knelt before him and asked him, 'Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?' And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.' Then Jesus said, 'You know the commandments: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' And the young guy said to Jesus, 'Teacher, I have kept all of these things from my youth up.'"
So, first of all, we have the big question, we have the shocking answer that we're going to look at that Jesus gave him, and then we have the big wow principle. Here he runs up, this young guy. He's rich, had a lot of means. He was young. Nothing wrong with that. By the way, he must have been handsome. If you're rich and young, you just almost can't escape being handsome. Now, some people miss that, but it's hard to do if you're rich and you're young. So he had the right means, he came to Jesus at the right time. He had a position. Perhaps he was a ruler of the synagogue or he had some kind of title in that area.
And if you were the ruler of the synagogue, this means that you were the number one religious person in the whole area. It means that you had the highest political office. It means that you were the most affluent and you were involved in all the commercial enterprises of that day. Rich, had the right means; young, right time; had a position, and he went in the right attitude. Notice he ran to Jesus and he knelt before Jesus. Had the right attitude. Humbly came before the master. He asked the right question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life"?
And by the way, this question was asked all the time in rabbinical teaching in that day. It was a common question. Rabbi would stand up and he would sort of begin his lecture and say, you know, "What must I do to inherit eternal life"? And all the rabbis gave the same universal answer to that question in every synagogue. They would always say, "Keep the commandments. Avoid sin. Keep the commandments. Avoid sin". That was the stock answer. So his question, he asked the right question. And also, we saw he had the right lifestyle. He was a moral man. Now, what else could you find? What else would you look for in someone?
Affluent, had a position. He was young, asked the right question, came to Jesus with the right attitude. He went to the right person. He went to Jesus. And then on top of that, he was a moral, ethical young man. Boy, some kind of guy, right? I'm sure all the other disciples and apostles sort of said, "You know, we've been looking for somebody just like this. He's going to change our whole endeavor here on this earth. This is the man". And he said to him, "Jesus, I have kept all of these things," 20th verse, "since my bar mitzvah. I've lived a perfect life". You say, "Well, he wasn't really telling the truth".
You know, Paul made the same claim. Philippians 2 he said, "You know, I've kept the law. I've been perfect in the law". And notice these commandments. These are the commandments. There are six, commandment five through commandment nine in Exodus 20. That's the ones he rehearsed. These are the commandments that deal with interpersonal relationships. These are the commandments that deal with your relationship, my relationship to other people. And this young man said, "As far as my relationship with other people: lying, adultery, murder, stealing, honoring parents," he said, "I get an A+. I've kept all of them".
And it said in a little verse here, it says Jesus loved him. Jesus loved everybody, but Jesus saw something extra in this young man. Anybody would have seen all that he had going for him. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful moment. And by the way, look at what Jesus said, the shocking answer he gave to this. "Looking at him, Jesus had love for him," verse 21, "and said to him, 'One thing you lack.'" I imagine the young guy said, "Whatever it is, I'm ready to do it". He said, "What must I do"?
By the way, this young man was in the inheritance business. You don't get that rich that young and have a title unless you inherited it from your daddy. So he said, "I have gotten my riches, I've got my title because I've inherited it". He said, "Now, I've got everything in this world covered. I'm secure. I'm safe. I have it all. Been there, done that. I've got everything I need in this world," he said, "but I need one other thing. How can I get to heaven? I want to have security in the next life". Jesus said, "One thing you lack". I imagine in his mind he said, "Name it. I can handle it". Jesus said, "Go and sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and come and follow me".
That took him back a little bit, and the Bible says he got up, went away sorrowing. Literally, he went away broken, confused, beaten up because the Bible says he had a lot of property. Did you know this is the only example of anyone who ever came in the life of Jesus and knelt at his feet that when they got up, they went away poorer than when they arrived? They went away in worse condition than when they first came and knelt at the feet of Jesus. Did you know this is the only example of that? Everybody else got up healed. Everybody else got up walking in faith. Everybody else got up blessed. Everybody else got up with a new life. Everybody else was touched profoundly, that changed their lives.
This guy got up in worse condition than when he ran and knelt at the feet of Jesus. The only illustration of that in all the Bible. What's going on here? What's happening here? You see, Jesus said, "Go sell. Come follow". And Jesus was saying, "I want to be in the middle of your life and call the shots in your life. I want to be Lord and Savior of your life," and the problem with this young man was that he was already owned by another god. He was already owned by another god. The world says, "You are what you own". God says, "You are what owns you".
And so the office of God was already filled in the life of this young man, and therefore he turned and he decided he would trust in his trust funds rather than trusting Jesus Christ. "Go sell. Come follow". He got up and said, "I'm out of here". But he got up broken. Jesus was making an offer to this young man to come with him and be a part of the 12, to be in the inner circle. That's what it was all about. What an offer. "Come and, man, come close. Be a part". Jesus loved him. He saw what he could mean. He saw the potential in his life. He said, "You only lack one thing".
And notice something. This was a highly moral individual. I mean, his morality was off the charts. He was just, he was there. So we have the idea that when we become a Christian, we confess sin, right? Repent, turn away from sin, right? We invite Jesus in our life. We got the sin question worked out, but there's another thing that comes along. That's what we do with the evil. That's proper. What do you do with the good that God gives to you and me? That's the question. He handled the sin problem, but he wasn't handling the biggest sin of all because he was addicted, he was aligned. His life revolved around his wealth. It was the wealth that gave him an entree to people. It was the wealth that made him popular. It was the wealth that controlled his life.
And Jesus was saying, "You can't hold on to that god and let me be your God, and you can't follow me and keep that as the center of your life". Scary, isn't it? And then look at the response here we have. Verse 22, "But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving as he was one who owned much property. And Jesus looking around said to his disciples..." Now notice, first of all, when the young man came up, Jesus pointed to heaven and said, "You call me good"? He said, "No one's good but God". He was checking out to see if this young man was calling him God. He was, but he said, you know, "Don't call anybody good. Only God can be called good".
The rabbis taught that. You didn't say, "There's a good man". Oh, no. Only God is good. He pointed to heaven. Then he pointed to the commandments. "What must I do to inherit eternal life"? He said, "Look at the commandments. Keep these". Said, "Man, I've kept all of those". Then he pointed the young man, Jesus did. He said, "Now, you go sell all that and you follow me. You lack one thing". By the way, what commandment was this young man breaking? The first commandment: "Thou shall have no other gods before me". We make anything god and put anything in first place in your life or in my life, we have usurped God Almighty who wants to have the exclusive center of your life and the exclusive center of my life.
See what happened? And then Jesus pointed at the disciples after the young man walked off. "And Jesus looking around said to the disciples, 'How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.' And the disciples were amazed at his word, and said to them, 'Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.'" Why were the disciples amazed? Because the Jews believed that if you kept the law and you were moral, God would bless you with riches. They believed that. If you doubt that, read Deuteronomy 26 through chapter 28. That's what the Jewish religion taught. "Man, if you're good, man, you're going to have a lot of money, you're going to have a lot of property, a lot of prestige".
Now, this was taught in the early days of Judaism. It's like we teach children on the basis of rewards and basis of punishment. But see, they had moved through all of this. Now, Jesus was taking it to a higher realm and the disciples weren't getting it. It wasn't breaking through. They wasn't understanding. He said they were amazed, and then Jesus gave them that wow statement. He said, "Let me tell you how tough it is. It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than is for a rich guy to get to heaven". And when he said that, they answered... They answered... And it says in the Bible, they were more amazed at that.
Now, what was Jesus talking about? The camel was the largest animal they knew in Israel, in Palestine, and the needle is about the smallest little opening they could think of. And Jesus said, "It's easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than a rich man to get into heaven". What in the world is he talking about? By the way, there's a problem here for you and me, big problem. We don't mind saying that it'd be tough for Bill Gates or Warren Buffett or some of the multi-super millionaires of the world to get into heaven; but see, that doesn't cover folks like us, does it? "They're not talking about us. So I can just sit back and say, 'Hey, I like those rich guys. They're not going to get into heaven.'"
Man, you know, easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle. So therefore, but we begin to realize that by the standards of that day, this is going to really upset you, we're all rich. Everybody here is filthy rich. Oh well, let's soften that verse a little bit. "You know, if you're talking about me, you know, it'd be hard for me and you to go through the eye of a needle, easier for a camel to go, well, what do you mean by a camel going through"?
And we've heard the interpretation if you've been around church for a while that the cities had big gates, walled cities. They had little gates. The big gates were open in the day, but at night they closed the big gate and someone traveling with a camel and all loaded with burdens, there would a short gate. And if they were going to take the camel through a gate about 4-feet high, that the camel would have to unload his baggage, get down on those camel knees, and kind of squeeze through that gate. They'd have to grease them up a little bit and push them to get them through the gate and you could get a camel through the short gate, and that short gate was called the eye of the needle.
Now we've heard that. It's good preaching, but it's not true. It was 2 or 300 years later before they had those eye of a needle short gates around the walled cities. Didn't have them when Jesus made this statement. Whoops. See, the other one be good. You heard a rich man has to get down on his knees. He has to take everything off his back. He has to just be squeezed and have... see, that makes good preaching and good teaching, but that's not what Jesus was saying. He wasn't talking about the short gate. They didn't have any then. "Oh, what was he saying"? Oh, well he says, "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle..."
And the word camel in the Greek is very much like the word cable. So maybe they didn't hear right in, they were talking. And so it should be, "It's easier for a cable to go through the eye of a needle". That's a little more logical. Not a giant camel, 1500-pound camel. I mean, but a cable is a little smaller. Makes it, it softens it. See, we like to soften stuff ourselves. Hard statements. Somebody said, "Well, I don't like to be called a senior citizen". Well, they want to be called chronologically gifted. "I'm chronologically gifted".
And in Tempe, Arizona, they don't like to talk about all the potholes they have in the street. They say it's pavement impairments. And so it's hard for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, a rich man, I mean, we want to soften this statement a little bit. Well, how in the world can a camel go through the eye of a needle?
Some years ago, they had something called the Bass-O-Matic on a comedy strip on television. You know the Bass-O-Matic? It was a blender, and they took a bass, a fish, you know the fish bass? And they put it in the blender, and they cut that blender on and they beat that bass all up it to kind of be pureed? Then they would take it and they would pour it out and say, "Would you like a cup of bass"? I mean, and so thinking about that, I guess you could take a camel and put a camel in a big blender.
Now, those who are part of the protection of camels, don't riot, please. You could take a camel when he was old and dead and put him in a blender and you could, I guess, beat him up in there awhile and puree him and get him sort of liquid, and you could take all that camel now out and get it in a syringe and find a needle's eye and take that camel and in time, I guess, you could have all that purated camel drip through the eye of that needle, and that's the way a camel can go through the eye of a needle. I don't know any other way to do it.
What was Jesus saying? Let me tell you what he's saying. He was saying a shocking wow statement. He was saying simply, "It's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to get to heaven". He was saying a rich man cannot get to heaven. That's what he was saying. You can't soften that. He was saying, "A rich person cannot get into heaven". That's exactly what he was saying. And if all of us are rich... well, have a good day. What is going on? What is the Lord saying? Look at the rest of it. "And they were more astonished and said to him, 'Then who can be saved?'"
That's the question now, isn't it? It looks like nobody can. If rich, rich guy can't with all of his entrees, all of his money, all of his pedigree and every contact he has and everything. If he can't be saved, and then it's as tough to be saved, if you're rich, as a camel going through an eye of a needle. The disciples are stunned. They said, "Well, it looks like nobody's going to heaven".
And look at this verse 27. "With people it is impossible, but with God for all things are possible". Jesus said it takes a miracle for anybody to go to heaven. God has to do it. We have the idea we get to heaven by, "Oh, these are all the things I don't do, and these are all the things that I do. Surely, I'm going to heaven". Jesus said, "Nonsense. You'll never get there like that". He said it takes a miracle for someone to go to heaven.
Let me put this whole thing down on the lowest common denominator. If I had stood here a couple of months before and quoted the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: "Lay not up for yourself treasures on earth where moth and rust doth corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and thieves do not break through and steal." you'd say, "Well, you know, good Bible verse". But I quote that today and I say, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth where Wall Street goes south. Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth". Meaningless. Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. There and there alone is our security. So take whatever god that owns you now and throw him out and put Jesus Christ in his place, and I'll tell you you'll have life now and life forever.