What must a rich man do to be saved? If you are in the category of living comfortably—able to pay bills, buy groceries and clothes, and have extra—you are who Jesus is speaking to in particular. Though not perhaps rich by the world’s standards, we are in great danger of forgetting from Whom these blessing come.
This impossible illustration comes from Jesus himself and leaves us with questions. Is it really impossible? Why? What must a rich man do to be saved? Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t leave us without answers or hope.
Is it Really Impossible for the Rich to Go to Heaven?
Without God’s supernatural intervention, the answer is yes. Jesus tells us later in the same passage, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 NASB)
Man is incapable of saving himself. It is impossible for anyone—rich or poor—to go to heaven on their own. If we could, we wouldn’t need a savior. Jesus Christ is our source of salvation, and utter dependency on Him is the only way to enter heaven. This is the heart of Jesus’s message.
Unfortunately, the rich are at a greater risk of misplaced dependency and thus less likely to enter Heaven.
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Who Are the Rich and Why Is it Harder?
If you are in the category of living comfortably—able to pay bills, buy groceries and clothes, and have extra—you are who Jesus is speaking to in particular. Though not perhaps rich by the world’s standards, we are in great danger of forgetting from Whom these blessing come.
“A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” (John 3:27 NASB)
When we struggle to meet basic needs, dependence on God tends to be forefront in our minds. Every provision is attributed to Him and not anything we’ve done. We see it as a gift, and generally share more willingly from the little we have.
However, when we live a comfortable lifestyle, it is easy to lose sight of that dependency and give the credit to our hard work instead. Wealth becomes viewed as earned and deserved. Self-reliance takes over our thoughts and actions. If we want an enjoyable retirement, it is up to us to save for it. If we want the newest and the greatest, we must work hard, and since we work hard, we deserve to enjoy life in our free time. Our schedules become too busy to invest in others’ lives. Self-reliance and self-absorption become stumbling blocks to our salvation.
Jesus provides several illustrations of this.
In Luke 12:16-21, Jesus tells a parable of a rich man whose land was very productive. He decided to store it all for himself so that he might enjoy a life of ease and entertainment. Nowhere does the rich man recognize that abundance as a gift from God, nor is there any mention of him giving any portion of it for God’s use. The rich man was selfish and thought himself in control of his future. Yet God would ruin those plans and demand the rich man’s life before his plans could come to fruition. Greed and a lack of recognizing who was truly was in control prevented the rich man from entering heaven.
Another famous story is often called “The Rich Man and Lazarus” (Luke 16:19-31). In this parable, the rich man enjoys his life and takes no note of the poor man at his door. He is selfish and hard-hearted. Lazarus begged every day, and suffered because the rich man refused to notice him or share the wealth bestowed upon him. The rich man showed no dependency on God until he died. His focus during life was inward, not outward to those in need, or upward to the God who blessed him.
Being rich doesn’t keep you from salvation, but it does have the potential to blind you to the favor God has shown you, and your absolute need to depend on Him. So is it bad to be rich?
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Is it Bad to Be Rich?
No—every gift from God is good. If He has blessed you with wealth, it is for a reason, and we have examples in the Bible to prove this.
Joseph of the Old Testament was one of the wealthiest men of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. However, that wealth did not diminish his dependency on God. He knew God’s provision of riches and vision were favored gifts which he in turn used to save multiple nations. Joseph was a rich man, but first and foremost, he was a humble servant of God.
In the book of Acts, we read about several members of the early church who were wealthy and helped to support others. Barnabas sold a field and donated the money so it could be used to serve the needy (Acts 4:36-37), Dorcas made clothes for the widows (Acts 9:36-43), and a Roman Centurion named Cornelius “did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God” (Acts 10:1-8).
Though they were wealthy, God was the one they depended upon, and by His example they used their riches to freely serve others. When our identity, security, and hope are tied into accumulating and maintaining wealth, our fists tighten and our hearts harden against the one who provided that gift and those He calls us to help.
If we are to guard against this, we must evaluate our hearts.
A Heart Check for the Rich
God judges a man before he can enter heaven, and He does not judge as the world judges. Someone could be the richest, most influential person on the planet, and still not enter. No amount of possessions or influence can sway God. He looks past worldly standards and into the heart of a man (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows where your dependency lies. Do you?
I encourage you to use these verses and the following questions as a “heart check.”
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, … But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…” (Matthew 6:19-20)
“…Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NASB)
What are you storing up? How are you using the wealth God has given you? Are you satisfied with what you have, or are you always striving for more? Is your focus on the gift instead of the Giver? If you lost all your wealth and your health, would you still trust in God?
If you found the answers to some of those questions distasteful, you might be depending on your wealth for identity, security, and hope. The only way to fix that is to go straight to Jesus.
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How Can a Rich Person Be Saved?
“If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10 NASB)
If you aren’t sure how to call on the name of Jesus, please read over The Sinner’s Prayer - 4 Examples for Salvation. There is no magic formulaic prayer, just heartfelt confession between you and your Savior.
Although it may be more difficult for a rich man to be saved, by the grace of God, it is not impossible. Whether rich or poor, He will save you. All you have to do is call out, and He will teach you to depend on Him.
Crystal Caudill is a wife, caregiver, mom of teen boys, historical romance author, and prayer warrior. She isn't perfect but she strives to grow in God and encourage others in their faith journeys every day. Learn more about her and her writing at http://www.crystalcaudill.com.