Some may say, "surely you don’t mean that as an emphatic statement?" I do, and so does Jesus. He said emphatically that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. There is no human power, even wealth, that will allow a person to force their way into the kingdom of God.
The disciples were as shocked as we are. “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:25-26
The shaming and conviction that is necessary for us to say “no” to our original rebellion are only accomplished by divine power. In Matthew 5 Jesus gives us a hint of the shocking self awareness that is exemplified in the children of God.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (5:3). And immediately adds, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
These have embraced the depth of their alienation to their creator. They have realized that their separation has ripped apart the most important reasons for which God gave us life in His image. They do not hide behind self justification but wholeheartedly embrace His pronouncement of judgement over them.
Salvation is a work of God in contradiction to all that is in us and all that is around us. It overwhelms the original sin which is perpetuated in all of us. If God does not save us, we will not be saved.
Power enables life to be lived as we design, to self govern. And wealth enhances power. It doesn’t matter whether we think we are wealthy or not. It doesn’t matter whether we have much or a relative little. Any level of wealth enhances power.
This is Satan in a nutshell, and, it is exactly what Adam and Eve did in the beginning. Rather than believe God, they believed a lie and asserted their “right” to self govern. To be the god of their own lives!
Abraham in contrast, learned to do the opposite. Abraham believed God. Sounds so simple. And of course it is. While at the same time it is not! I am intrigued that Paul says that Abraham believed God, not that He believed in God.
It would be throughly appropriate to say that he believed in God. This is exactly what Moses records in Genesis 15:6 “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
Abraham believed in the word (the promise) that God had given him. And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” (15:4)
But in Romans 4, Paul says Abraham believed God. What might that add to our understanding about faith?
First, it tells us that Abraham had a personal relationship with God. He was not merely a mystery god, one who might be in a place, or rocks, or trees, or the sun. He was a personal God.
Second, Abraham had learned to trust this God. “as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. In hope he believed” (Romans 4:17-18)
Third, the initial believing God produced in Abraham a lifestyle of living by faith. “No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20)
But for all of us, the desire to the power of self governance invades every decision we make. The ability to control my comfort, to unilaterally assert my “rights” and decide life for myself.
The often unseen impact of power and money grows proportionately. It is evident in all of us. From the tensions we have with spouses, to the way we treat people who serve us in commercial stores.
Power draws its energy from the original sin, and left unbounded asserts self rights in every dimension of our life. The impact upon us can be seen in: expectations, relationships, treatment of people, assets that we use both personal and corporate.
Worse for true Jesus followers, it takes our eyes off of the most important things. “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4)
The most powerful impact of our corrupted power over self appears internally. Others may think that we are kind, or specially gifted by God, or a special instrument of His. While internally we have allowed to fester ideas about our worth, or merit, or importance that are not to find the light of day in the child of God.
Our self awareness of the extent to which power to self govern impacts us can be known or hidden deep in the recesses of our being. Without a daily dose of regular time with God in and through His word, ministered by His Spirit, we are capable of great self deception.
The power of this deception over us can be internal or external. We see it often in people who have been given governmental or even ecclesiastical power to represent others. We live in a moment of history when powers’ ugly head raises itself and we are shocked.
Ultimately, when the light of day arrives, we discover that many have used power, and accumulated wealth which often accompanies it, to make decisions which favor themselves. Too many of these decisions are found to be illegal and immoral.
Many of our leaders, even Christian ones, for example tell us that the right of a woman to power over her own body needs to be protected. She has a right to self govern. While the direct consequence of that decision has been the slaughter of 60 million unborn babies in the US since the middle 1970’s. That is more babies killed than people who were killed under Hitler and Stalin combined.
Power wants what it wants. Indeed thinks that it deserves all that it wants. As God warned Cain in the beginning, “if you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” So, too, Paul in 1 Timothy 6 warns us, power and money can dominate us as Christians. The only safe alternative is daily crucifixion of the flesh!
We must embrace the Biblical teaching. We are just servants. No position belongs to us whether from acclaim (recognized influence) or ability or longevity. The growing crescendo of moral, leadership, marriage and church failures is a testimony and a warning that we have not thought deeply enough about the continued impact of the original sin upon our daily lives.
We were not made to carry the weight of the corrupting influence of power, the right to self govern. Nor the accumulated wealth that comes with it. We were made to be servants and stewards of all that belongs to God: our lives and all of the assets that actually belong to Him.
It is the greatest and most corrupting of sins: To chose life apart from our joyful dependence upon God, His provisions, His righteousness requirements, His expected stewardship of all we posses. This is His definition of true humanity.
A further thought
I have penned a response to a friend with whom I was dialoguing about this important concept. I include that dialogue below as further explanation of what I mean when I say, power and money always corrupt! The only question is how much do they corrupt?
Take a closer look at my arguments. They are exactly what I attempted to say in both of my books on the flesh.
But power is more innate than the flesh. Power defines the very essence of our rebellion. Power was the choice that Adam and Eve made to govern (trust) themselves rather than believe (trust) God.
And so God says, in the day that you decide to live life on your own terms, expressed by eating of the fruit that God had set in the garden to test their obedience, ie their trust in Him and His assigned reasons that they have life in the first place, you shall surely die.
Power is the engine for the flesh. Power wants first and foremost to empower itself, and then project that as far as possible on others. Money simply enhances ones ability to do the above.
The inner control of power expressed in the flesh is always with us. The inner depths of its corruption may not be seen by others. But God who knows and tests the heart knows immediately the generating force of our decisions.
The external control of power as expressed in the flesh is more evident. One book I may quote has done some research on money. It’s conclusion is that money makes us mean. I would say demanding. But this is merely the exertion of power, our desire to self govern, projected on others.
We see it in the wealthy, how they think about themselves in comparison to others and how they treat others. But we also see it in the poor, as you and I have seen in some nations.
How often have we been concerned when we saw how one person treated another, even Christians. The very stratification of some religions solidify this scenario projecting “rank” through caste and classes on every person in the Nation. It even justifies inhumane treatment of millions because their most recent reincarnation “assigned” them to a lower class. Some classes are so low, that they can justifiably, in the estimation of higher classes, be said to be soulless. Therefore deserving of everything that happens to them. And if they die, what a blessing, for they now have the ability to be reincarnated into a higher class. This is power at its most insidious and dangerous point.
And, so Jesus says that it is EASIER for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Why? Because the rich man has the ultimate ability to fund life just as he wants it to be. The demand for obedience to King Jesus in order to enter into the kingdom of God is too great a demand, too great subservience to another. Exactly the enticing words of Satan to Adam and Eve. “Surely God is hiding something from you?” Surely you would be wiser, happier, more self fulfilled to make your own choice!” “You will not surely die, but you will be all that you intend to be”
Study and compare the warnings and admonitions of Genesis 4, Matthew 19 and 1 Timothy 6:10; 17-19.