Throughout my life, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of countries in this world. My job has sent me to several, and mission trips through my church took me to more. In each place that I’ve gone, I have typically found good people, and good food. Despite variations in culture, language, and clothing, we truly are far more alike than different. (After all, all human beings are all part of the same family, traced back to when God created Adam in His own image.)
While things like sports preferences and languages don’t necessarily have a spiritual impact (other than those who pray in their native language when their team is down by a score near the end of the match!), there is one difference that Jesus identified as having an effect on one’s ability to become part of God’s kingdom:
And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Matthew 19:23-24 NASB
I happen to live in the United States of America, and it occurred to me that – since I believe that what Jesus said is true – it would be very difficult for citizens of my country, including me, to follow Jesus. I started to wonder if this meant that my opinion of my faith was perhaps too inflated, and whether I was really living according to His will.
That’s a sobering thought.
Let’s start with some facts: Wealth in the U.S.A. is far greater than the majority of other countries in the world. Despite not driving a luxury car or wearing designer suits, I must – in all honesty – consider myself, and those around me, to have a lot of resources compared to many of my fellow human beings throughout the world.
Still, despite our opportunity to suggest counter-examples, there are a number of people in this country who – based on the fruits that I can observe – are genuine followers of Jesus (see Luke 6:43-45). (I’m not going to enumerate who I think is “in” or “out”, though. That sounds like something for God to handle.) I hope that we can agree that – even in the U.S.A. – there are many whose lives demonstrate that they live in the confidence of being saved from their sins, whose behavior towards others mirrors the example of Jesus Christ, and whose words profess that their choices come from following Him (versus just a personal preference).
How is this possible? Jesus’ disciples asked a similar question, and He gave them a simple answer:
When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:25-26 NASB
In reality, none of us can save ourselves. And, perhaps that was the root of the disciples’ question: given a [false] belief that the rich were inherently blessed or loved more by God, if wealthy people can’t easily be saved, how could anyone else have hope? In the truth of Jesus’ message, none of us – rich, poor, or in-between – has earned God’s love. All of us have sinned and cannot be saved on our own. Only God’s plan – through Jesus’ willing and perfect sacrifice – could save us. After we have sinned, no amount of “residual righteousness” on our part can result in our salvation.
It seems fitting that this part of Jesus’ answer happens to be the motto of my state:
5.06 State motto.
“With God, All Things Are Possible” shall be adopted as the official motto of the state.
Effective Date: 10-01-1959 .
Having recognized the power of God, here, let’s take away a few key points:
- If we are doing well financially, and also follow Jesus, let us not forget to be thankful. We neither obtained wealth on our own (God provided the skills, circumstances, and resources), nor did we do anything to earn our salvation. Money and other possessions can be a major hurdle to overcome, and we must be humble enough to recognize God’s help. Every day that we don’t love Money more than Him, we do so with His help.
- Having a lot of material goods and following Jesus is difficult. Sins of pride, envy, jealousy, coveting, and trusting anything other than God will continue to pull at those of us who live in this fallen world. While we look forward to an eternity outside of that tug-of-war with our sinful natures, we can ease that stress by yielding control of our belongings to God (who owns them, anyway), and often by giving away as much as we can.
- If we have wealth, let’s make sure that we’re not buying the impression that we are actually following God. Once someone has enough wealth, he or she can manage how things look, and control the “messaging” a lot more. Attendance at church, substantial giving, and postings on social media may give the appearance of a changed heart, but God knows whether or not we are being honest, and if we are genuinely following Him. At the same time, we have the ability to surround ourselves with messages that are comfortable, and make us feel OK even if we are sinning or putting on a front. Be sure to read God’s Word with an open mind (and heart), and beg for the Holy Spirit’s leading in the actual path that He wants for you.
I don’t think that I’m taking this verse out of context, but you can read the entire chapter and decide for yourself:
For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself.
Galatians 6:3 NASB
God is amazing and powerful, but this material world is a force to be reckoned with. Be thankful that God allows even Americans to be saved, but don’t take it for granted.