And Jesus looked round about, and said to his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!…
Valuable to the moral as to the scientific or artistic teacher to have a real instance - a study from the life. Yet it is not given to many to seize the salient points and analyze the character as Christ did. He did it, too, in a manner the most natural.
I. THE SAYING OF CHRIST. "How hardly shah they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" It is no proverb culled, from the pages of the past. but evidently his own instinctive, penetrating moral from what the had just seen was self-evident to him "how hardly," i.e. with what difficulty, such a thing could take place. He knew by personal experience the price that was to be paid for the realization of that kingdom, and what its nature would be when realized; but he alone. As fruit of his own inward experience it was a distinct discovery in morals. The disciples, not so conversant with the inner nature of the kingdom, were amazed. It was the exact opposite of their own idea. They thought that it would be absolutely necessary to gain such disciples if the kingdom was ever to be realized. It was impossible for them to conceive of spiritual power apart from material means and influence. They could not get rid, moreover, of the dream that a political shape would sooner or later habit of thought of the ancient world. The well-to-do had not only the material advantage of their riches, but a certain rejected honor as enjoying the theocratic blessing upon the keeping of the commandments. And in the case of the ruler this moral excellence was not only an ancestral trait but a personal characteristic. The Greek who styled the rich and powerful of his nation οἱ ἀγαθοί, or καλοί, and the poor οἱ κακοί, was representative of his age; cf. the Latin optimates, the Saxon good men (opposed to lewd people, base hinds). the French prudhommes. And the modern mind has not yet got rid of the twist. There is a superficial gentleness of manners, refinement, and honor, identified, by long association, with the "better classes," that is easily mistaken for a deeper moral principle. Nor can we ignore the "minor moralities," the conventional proprieties and respectabilities which wealth generally brings in its train. It is only when the emphasis is laid on character that these are estimated at their proper worth. Therefore the necessity for -
II. THE JUSTIFICATION OF THE SAYING. It is done in a spirit of tender, condescending sympathy - "children."
1. The general difficulty attending entrance into the kingdom is declared (the clause, "for them that trust in riches," being probably not genuine). The reason for this difficulty is not, however, stated. It ought to have been remembered. "Taking up his cross" was the condition imposed upon every would-be "disciple."
2. A figure of speech is employed in relation to the rich. The tradition identifying the "needle's eye" with a certain gate of Jerusalem is hardly well enough supported to be reliable. It was probably but an impromptu hyperbole that flashed from the mind of Christ. But it would recall the teaching of the "strait gate." Κάμιλος, a rope, may, however, be the true reading. Everything that exaggerates and pampers "self" hinders from the better life. The disciples had learnt that lesson in part (Ver. 28). but its absolute import and spiritual realization they were not to arrive at until their Master had gone away. Their astonishment is not, therefore, lessened, but rather increased, by the repeated statement; and they said, "Then who can be saved?" A question which seemed to imply, "If the rich cannot be saved without difficulty, the poor will have still less chance." The temptations of poverty were probably prominent in their minds. From the human point of view this would seem to be a just observation; therefore he qualified his statement, and under certain conditions declared -
III. THE SAYING SUPERSEDED. "With men it is impossible, but not with God: for all things are possible with God. There is here a double hint, viz. as to the objective work which he himself was to do for men, and the spiritual aid which would be experienced in men by the advent of the Holy Ghost. The difficulty is wholly on the human side. Salvation is thus vindicated as a supernatural achievement - a Divine grace, and not a human virtue. - M.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!