The rich young man had walked sorrowfully away and the eyes of the disciples were upon him as he did so. What they had done to follow Jesus, he had rejected. Their lives during their time with Jesus must have been confusion after confusion, mystery after mystery, they had learned a lot about human behaviour and the fact that many people did not react to the claims of Jesus in a positive manner. They were not only amazed by the young man's reaction, but also to the words of Jesus. We must remember that the disciples were Jews and inevitably steeped in Jewish tradition and morality: the Jews believed that prosperity was the sign of a good man and so the wealthier the person the more certain they were of entry into the Kingdom. However, they must have obtained this wealth through righteous living rather than oppressing others. Thus Psalm 37 v 25 states: 'I have been young and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread', but some of the wealthiest individuals in Jewish society were tax collectors and they were despised and isolated.
Jesus, however, saw the dangers of prosperity:
1. Material possessions keep us fixed in this world.
2. It makes us think that everything has a price. We will think of cost rather than value and there are things in this world which have a value far greater than anything we can buy!
3. The possession of material things provides an acid test of character. Prosperity can so easily make someone proud, self-satisfied and worldly.
4. The wealthy have great responsibility. It is how we use what we have as well as how we get it which determines how we are judged. I recall a leader of a church telling me recently that his church had struggled financially for a while and they were tempted to reduce their tithe giving to charities: however, they had decided to double their giving instead and God had blessed that decision. How do we demonstrate our trust in God? Maybe we don't see ourselves as wealthy, but we are far better off than the day labourers in Jesus' time, who, if they didn't get work one day, they didn't eat, nor their children.