Can Rich People Get Into Heaven?

I appreciate the creativity of the Tricuna Tribe of Brazil.  These indigenous people who live in the Brazilian rain forest, capture monkeys in a very clever way. They put a small hole in a hollowed-out gourd and then the fill the gourd with a piece of fruit.  Then they attach the gourd to a tree.  When a monkey comes along and smells the sweet fruit inside the gourd, he reaches his hand down inside to get the fruit.  But once he makes a fist to hold onto the fruit, his hand is too large and he is unable to get it out of the hole.  He could let go of the fruit and easily remove his hand, but he won’t let go. He is now trapped because he has a grip on his prize and won’t release his grip.  (Watch how this is done.)

We might be tempted chuckle at the monkey’s foolishness, unwilling to let go of a piece of fruit in order to set himself free. Silly monkey!  And yet, I wonder sometimes if we might find ourselves trapped in a similar way: in unhealthy patterns of thought, in bad attitudes, in resentment and bitterness, in toxic relationships, and poor habits.  Perhaps we should learn to let go and set ourselves free.

Jesus once encountered a man who was trapped by his unhealthy attachment to wealth.  He had accumulated a lot of it over the years, storing up his earthly treasures.  When Jesus invited him to let it go and set himself free, he wouldn’t do it and walked away a sad man trapped in his self-imposed prison (Mark 10:17-27).  

Is Jesus saying that it is impossible for rich people to be accepted by God?  The good news is that Jesus does not teach that wealth is evil or awful or that rich people are evil or awful just because they have achieved some level of financial success in this life.  Having money, being wealthy does not put eternal life out of reach.   Jesus is not offering a blanket condemnation of wealth, but He is telling us something very important that we need to remember.  So having clarified what Jesus is not saying, let’s look at what Jesus is saying. 

What we find here is a warning to heed, a practice to engage in, and a promise we can count on:

First, the warning.  Wealth can be dangerous to our soul. Wealth can exert a corrupting influence on our heart, our soul, our character.  I chuckle at the tee shirt I once saw that said, “Lord, let me prove to you that winning the lottery won’t spoil me.”  Truth is, winning the lottery actually ruins a lot of people.  If the main goal of our lives is to grow a healthy God-honoring soul, then money can become a danger to that goal if we aren’t careful.

Now here is the practice.  Be consistently generous.  Put together a plan for regularly and consistently giving away portions of your wealth. Generosity is a character quality that must be intentionally cultivated, and it only gets cultivated through regular and consistent practice.   This requires discipline.  Discipline is the ability to make yourself do what you know you should do whether you feel like it or not.  Jesus tells the rich man to give it all away.  There are instances in our lives when that might be the best approach.  But when you read through the Bible, you don’t find any other instance where Jesus insisted that someone sell everything and get rid of all material possessions in order to experience eternal life.  But let’s make it very clear that there will be times in our lives when Jesus will call us to be very generous in our giving, more generous that what we would be comfortable with.  Maybe not giving away 100%, but giving a lot more than we want to give.  We do need to let some of it go, regularly, consistently, generously.  

Now here is the promise. Eternal life is available to all people no matter what their socio-economic status.  You aren’t so poor that you can’t have it and you aren’t so rich that you don’t need it.   Jesus doesn’t hate rich people.  In fact, today’s scripture lesson tells us that Jesus loved this rich man.  Remember, when Jesus warns us about wealth, he does it out of love for us. And he offers us this promise: That nothing is impossible with God.  No matter who you are, no matter where you find yourself on the socioeconomic ladder, you have an eternal soul and you matter to God. But we can’t save ourselves.  We need God’s grace and mercy.  That’s why Jesus came into the world.  That’s why he died on the cross and rose from the dead.  Eternal life is possible, the promise of Heaven is real and it is available.  And you’re not so poor that you can’t have it and you’re not so rich you don’t need it.

I wonder, are you “trapped” in any area of your life right now?

Are you ready and willing to do whatever must be done in order to be set free? 

Perhaps you need to let go of something in order to receive what Jesus wants to give you. 

Think about it, pray about it, and then ask Jesus to help you release your grip on the things that hold you back. Listen to the sermon, “Can Rich People Get Into Heaven?”

Pastor Mark Miller