“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.”
– Jesus in Luke 6:20
Before we answer the big question in the title, I want you to consider this one. And be honest with yourself. Which home above would you choose? Would you chose the life represented by the picture on the left, or the life represented by the picture on the right? In all honesty I don’t know anyone that would willingly choose the one on the right. The life on the left represents ease, comfort, and wealth. The American dream. The one on the right represents hardships, suffering and poverty. Who in their right mind would choose that life? No one would, which is why so much of your life will be consumed with a never-ending quest for wealth and possessions if you’re not careful.
The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them, and what advantage has their owner but to see them with his eyes? Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.” (Ecc. 5:10-12)
This is what I call the entire book of Ecclesiastes in one picture. Depressing, right? Many people believe this book was written by King Solomon towards the end of his life. When Solomon was young, God famously came to him in a dream and told him to ask for one thing and He would give it to him. If you could ask for just one thing what would it be? Wealth? More intelligence? To be someone famous? A long life? Your own private island in the Caribbean? Solomon asked for wisdom so that he could govern wisely as king. God was so pleased with his request that He also gave him those things he didn’t ask for: riches and honor. (1 Kings 3:5-13) He became one of Israel’s greatest kings. But all of that went to his head and he turned from God. This is one of the reasons that many people feel he was the author of Ecclesiastes. He knew from personal experience just how deceptive wealth and riches could be. He had become famously wealthy and yet knew that for all his wealth his end would be no different from that of the beggar sitting in the dust outside the gates of Jerusalem.
On the subject of wealth Jesus once said, “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25) Maybe the reason is not that the rich are so wicked they’re kept out of the place, but that they’re so out of touch with reality they can’t see it’s a place worth getting into. Many people try, and some succeed in creating their own personal heavens on earth. They see only the top two pictures and become blinded to the reality of the bottom two. For all of the differences between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have nots, the same fate awaits them both. Without faith in Jesus that bottom picture is as good as it gets once this life is over. It’s mind boggling to me that some choose to throw the kingdom of heaven aside for the picture on the left. But many people simply choose to close their eyes to the reality of the world around them. They choose to believe for as long as they are able that this life and what they can accumulate here for themselves is all that really matters. It’s not a surprise to me that some of the poorest of this world are the most faithful to God. They know He is their only hope.
Back to that original question. Will the 1% enter the kingdom of heaven? First answer this. Are you in the 1%? Check out Global Rich List. Enter your salary, click the “Show My Results” button and find out where you rank against the other 7 billion people. You may be in for a surprise. According to the US federal government, a family of five with a combined income of just $28,000 is living at the poverty line. But compared to the other 7 billion of their closest friends, they are in the top 1.5% of the wealthy in this world. Kind of puts things into perspective.
A story is told of an American tourist in Jerusalem who met up with a monk. The monk offered to show him around the monastery where he stayed. On their tour they came to the monk’s room; the tourist noticed no TV, or computer, only a single change of clothes, a towel and a blanket. He asked, “How do you live so simply?” The monk answered, “I noticed you have only enough things to fill a suitcase; how do you live so simply?” To which the tourist replied, “I’m just a tourist; I’m only traveling through and I’ll be home again soon.” To which the monk said, “So am I, so am I.”
This is why Jesus said not to worry about your life. (i.e. Luke 12:22) This is why He said your life doesn’t consist in the abundance of your possessions. This is why Jesus says, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24) What will give your life meaning isn’t your job, or your family, or even your work ethic. Faith in Jesus alone will give your life eternal meaning.
So will the 1% enter the kingdom of heaven? I’ll let Jesus be the judge. When Jesus’ disciples heard what Jesus had to say about how hard it would be for the wealthy to get into heaven they said, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:26-27) As Christians we stake our lives on this truth. In the end our final hope isn’t in our possessions or even our lack of possessions – either can stand between us and God. In the end our final hope is in Jesus alone.