October 9, 2022 Wealth and Entering the Kingdom

Wealth and Entering the Kingdom

Read 19:13-26.


In reaching the correct understanding of this passage, we have mentioned before the essentiality of knowing the context. Another consideration is observing how an author uses a particular word or phrase. Although the Scriptures are divinely inspired, the Holy Spirit used human authors; and human beings use certain words or phrases in consistent ways, whether speaking or writing. We should also be aware that different NT authors may use the same word or phrase in a different way than another author.


For example, Paul and James use the word “justified” (dikayo) in different ways:


because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.[1]




For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.[2]


But, James writes:


You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.[3]


If the word “justified” in these two verses carries the same meaning then we have Paul and James contradicting one another. Indeed, cultic groups like the Mormons and the Roman Catholic Church take James to say that a person is made right with God by doing good works. Paul does use the word to mean “declared right” or “declared righteous.” However, James uses it to mean “vindicated” or “shown to be what it claims.” Thus, there is no contradiction between Paul and James.


We have a similar situation when comparing how Matthew uses the phrase, “eternal life,” as opposed to how John uses it in his gospel and how Paul uses it (John and Paul use it in the same way).


The traditional evangelical understanding of this passage is that the rich young ruler is asking Jesus how to obtain eternal life in the same sense as the apostle John and Paul meant by the phrase, “eternal life.” Jesus then answers him by telling him that one must obey all the commands of God. If they do, then they will have eternal life.


This, of course, is a direct contradiction to what Paul taught in Romans 3:20 as well as throughout his other epistles. However, evangelicals get around this contradiction by saying that Jesus, of course, knew that no one could obey the law perfectly and was only telling the rich ruler this so that he would see his own failure and just have faith in Jesus. I held to this interpretation for decades! However, it does not hold up. For one thing, both Mark and Luke have Jesus replying to the ruler that he only lacked one thing in his obedience and that is selling all his possessions. In other words, if the rich young ruler would only sell all his possessions then he would obtain eternal life. This shows that the eternal life that Jesus referred to in this passage cannot be the eternal life that Paul referred to, nor the eternal life that Jesus himself referred to in the gospel of John. If it were, Jesus is teaching salvation by works, which is impossible.


The context of how Jesus himself uses the words life and eternal life throughout the book of Matthew reveals what he is talking about. Starting from the Sermon on the Mount in chapter five, our Lord has been teaching on what is necessary to enter the kingdom of heaven, by which he means the kingdom that will be set up upon the earth when Jesus returns to the earth. “The kingdom of heaven” in Matthew is not heaven, but the kingdom that comes from heaven. It will be on the earth. We saw before that our Lord used several phrases to refer to the same thing:


  • having the kingdom of heaven (5:3; 10)
  • inheriting the earth (5:5)
  • receiving a reward from heaven (5:11)
  • entering the kingdom of heaven (5:20; 6:21; 18:2)
  • laying up treasures in heaven (6:19-21)
  • entering life (18;8-9)


In our passage this morning, Jesus is still referring to the kingdom age. See how he uses these terms interchangeably:


  • “enter life” (19:17)
  • “have treasure in heaven” (19:21)
  • “enter the kingdom of heaven” (19:23)
  • “enter the kingdom of God” (19:24)
  • sitting on thrones in the new world (19:28)
  • “inherit eternal life” (19:29)


Thus, we see that our Lord is using the same phrases that he used in the Sermon on the Mount and in chapter 18 and that he is referring to the kingdom to be set up upon the earth at his return.


The difference between the way Jesus refers to eternal life in John and the way he uses it according to Matthew is this: In the gospel of John, eternal life enters us and this happens at the moment we exercise faith. In the gospel of Matthew, we enter into eternal life.


As one man of God has said:


 To enter into life means to enter into the kingdom of the heavens (v. 23). The kingdom of the heavens is a realm of God’s eternal life. Hence, when we enter into it, we enter into God’s life. This differs from being saved. To be saved is to have God’s life enter into us, whereas to enter into the kingdom of the heavens is to enter into God’s life.[4]

Jesus said to the rich ruler: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” (vs. 17) He then recites six prominent and important commands. The young man responds that he has kept these commands. Then in verse 21 we read:

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”[5]

In order to “enter the kingdom” (vs. 23) you must be perfect, even selling everything you have. Neither perfection nor selling everything is required to be justified.

Thus, our Lord’s answer to the rich ruler, and to any would-be disciple, is about the kind of life that is necessary to possess if we would enter the kingdom to come. Many Christians have understood the gospel and may be saved eternally but are just sitting around waiting for heaven. Yet, our Lord’s word here and, especially, in the Sermon on the Mount, reveals that, in order to inherit the kingdom of God, there is a divine way of living that is necessary. It is a way that is higher than waiting around for heaven!

We should remember the high bar that the Lord taught in the Sermon on the Mount (and following):

  • We must be sensitive and contrite about our sins (5:3; 18:7-9)
  • We must be sorrowful over our remaining sins (5:4)
  • We must be meek (5:5)
  • We must hunger and thirst for righteousness (5:6)
  • We must show mercy (5:7)
  • Our thoughts must be pure (5;8)
  • We must be willing to endure mockery and persecution (5:10-11)
  • We must have good works (5:13-16)
  • We must teach others (we all must, not just those who have the gift of teaching; “whoever;”) (5:17-20)
  • We must not be angry with our brother or sister (5:21-16)
  • We must not lust (5:27-30)
  • We must not divorce (5:31-32; 19:1-9)
  • We must experience oneness with our spouse (oneness of heart and mind) and not merely exist in a relationship out of convenience (19:4-6)
  • We must be true to our word (5:33-37)
  • We must be willing to take insults without retaliation (5:38-39; 8:16-25)
  • We must be willing to lend (5:40-42)
  • We must love our enemies (5:42-48)
  • We must help the poor (6:1-3)
  • We must have private devotions with the Lord (6:5-6)
  • We must forgive others (6:14-15; 18:21-35)
  • We must fast (6:16-18)
  • We must not be anxious (6:25-34)
  • We must not judge hypocritically (7:1-5)
  • Yet, we must still judge and do so rightly (7:6; John 7:24)
  • We must be willing to take the hard way and actually take the hard way! How many Christians today avoid the hard way! How many take the easy way! (7:12-14)
  • We must bear good fruit (7:15-20)
  • We must actually do the will of the Father (7:21-23; 12:50)
  • We must build our lives on the words of Jesus (7:24-27)
  • We must put Jesus first above all persons and things (8:18-22; 10:34-37)
  • We must be unafraid to proclaim Jesus to others (10:26-33)
  • We must take up our cross (10:38)
  • We must actually follow Jesus as opposed to just saying that we follow him (10:38)
  • We must be willing to lose our lives for Christ (10:39)
  • We must be violent for the kingdom (11:12)
  • We must speak to others about the word of God (treasures) (13:51-52)
  • We must honor our father and mother (15:4-6)
  • We must deny ourselves (16:24-27)
  • We must be humble (18:3-4)
  • We must be radical in fighting sin in our lives (18:7-9)

What is your reaction when you hear these requirements for the kingdom listed all at once, as we have done? My reaction, and I think most people’s reaction is: “I cannot live this way! I can do some of these things. But I cannot do them all. Its too much!”

Do you know what? It is too much! The natural person cannot live this way.

Only by the divine life can we fulfill the requirements of the kingdom. It is easy to fulfill these requirements when we have the grace to do so. By our human life it is impossible, but by the divine life with the divine grace it is easy. In fact, it is a joy. What a joy to lay up treasure in the heavens! The trouble is that many Christians do not live by the divine life but by their own life. We must live according to the Spirit.

Returning to our text:


And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person 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 a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”[6]

It is not difficult to be saved in eternity for a rich person. Like anyone else, they only must recognize their sin and need for a Savior and Lord. They surrender to Christ as Lord, believing in his sacrifice and resurrection. But, it is difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom that is coming because they rely and become attached to their riches.

The disciples, as they so often have done before, still don’t understand the teaching of Jesus. They thought, as some Christians still think, that Jesus was speaking about salvation. Once they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22), they would understand all things (John 14:25-26), but here they are confused.

To the long list of what our Lord requires in order to inherit the kingdom, we can add that we must run from greed. We must not allow the love of money or the pursuit of wealth to distract us from following the Lord Jesus with all we are!

Regarding the love of money, all Christians will deny that they love money. First, it sounds so crass. Second, many disciples of Christ do not feel a love for money, so because they do not feel good about money, they assume they do not love money. But, love and feeling are two different things. The real test of what we love is how we act. If we are those who carefully guard our use of money to the extent that we are seldom generous to either the Lord’s work or to those who are in need, then we have a love of money. This is what Matthew warns us about in his recording of this exchange with the wealthy ruler. Therefore, this is what Jesus warns us about.

We do not need to sell all that we have (unless our hearts are fully captured by our possessions, as was this ruler), but we do need to have our hearts free from the love of money. Practically, we can overcome this by giving. We give to the Lord’s work on earth generously. Remember that Jesus had earlier taught that where our treasure is, there will our heart be (6:21). We can actually change the disposition of our heart by giving more generously to the church. Likewise, when we help those in need, we store up treasure in heaven and our hearts will be changed (6:1-4).

Be generous in supporting the Lord’s church and see your heart changed!

So, we can add having our hearts free of hoarding for ourselves to the long list of commands that the Lord has given so far in the gospel of Matthew. This kind of life – a life fully given over to the Lord – is the only life that qualifies us for the kingdom! Again, I must say that it is not possible to live in such an exalted state in our natural disposition. So, how can we live in this way? Just two things.

[1.] We must not be satisfied with living in mediocrity. We must get out of a “do enough to get by” mindset. We must resolve to press into the kingdom. That is, we must seek the rewards that our Lord has promised throughout the book of Matthew as an incentive. The seeking of rewards in the next age is a good thing. It is a very good thing because our Lord held out rewards over and over again as an incentive for his own disciples to live faithfully. We need this incentive. Never think you are too spiritual to seek rewards. The apostle Paul sought rewards (he stated so several times!). Jesus himself sought rewards. Our goal should be to inherit the kingdom.

[2.] We must live according to the divine life that we have within us if we belong to Christ. But what does that mean? We do need to live by the divine life but what does that look like? Put another way, how do we actually do it? I am going to give you two ways. I have given these to you before, many times. But I suspect that many are still not practicing these two things.

How do we live by the divine life? First, all we really have to do is enjoy the Lord. If we enjoy him we will also experience the divine supply of the Spirit.

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” [7]

Delight yourself in the Lord,

and he will give you the desires of your heart. [8]


But the righteous shall be glad;

they shall exult before God;

they shall be jubilant with joy! [9]

When we find our enjoyment in the Lord we both receive empowerment to live and we receive things that we have desired! Our enjoyment of the Lord makes life itself enjoyable.

What we choose to enjoy, including the Lord himself, is just that! It is a choice. We can choose to enjoy the Lord. The best way to do this is by enjoying his word because his word is nothing less than the expression of who God is! Therefore, as we enjoy his word, we enjoy him.

Maybe this is the 100th time I have told you this, but you must set a side a definite time to be in the word and you must not allow other matters to circumvent your time with the Lord. Mornings are best! Our Lord spent the early morning time with the Father and he had gladness that was greater than that of his companions (Hebrews 1:9).

The second way that we can live by the divine life is by simply calling on the name of the Lord. We call out loud, exercising our spirit and, when we call upon the Lord Jesus, who we receive is the Lord Jesus! We receive a greater supply of the Spirit of the Lord Jesus! (Gal. 4:6; Rom. 8:9) As we receive a greater supply, we receive greater joy, peace, and a greater desire for righteousness than we had known before.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.[10]

The hundredfold increase in parents and siblings means that we gain these relationships in the local church. Those who do not have spiritual mothers, loving brothers, and caring sisters in the local church will neither inherit eternal life. As already indicated, the way our Lord uses the phrase “eternal life” in this gospel is to designate the kingdom of God soon to come upon the earth, not to mean salvation.

That the last will be first and the first last will be explained by our Lord’s parable that he will teach next.

What must we do?

  • We refuse to be satisfied with mediocrity. We press into the kingdom because the violent take it by force (11:12). Press in!
  • We enjoy the Lord for, in our enjoyment, we discover joy in obedience!
  • We call upon the name of the Lord Jesus and experience freedom from the flesh.

[Press into the kingdom…enjoy the Lord…call on his name!]

The kingdom is coming! Have done with lesser things. Isn’t it wiser to get ready for the kingdom rather than spending so much time on your telephone, or the internet, or watching tv? We have the freedom to do those things. But the more we do those things the less ready we will be to inherit the kingdom.

Press into the kingdom, not the buttons on your phone!






[1] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Ro 3:20). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 3:28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Legacy Standard Bible (2021). (Jas 2:24). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

[4] Witness Lee, Life-Study of Matthew, Message 53.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:23–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ne 8:10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 37:4). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ps 68:3). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 19:29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.