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  • Eric Kampmann

Are the Rich Excluded?

Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the

splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with

him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.

Though while he lived he counted himself blessed—and men

praise you when you prosper—he will join the generation of his

fathers, who will never see the light of life. A man who has riches

without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

—Psalm 49:16–20

It is hard to overcome the awe we often feel when we are in the presence of the rich and powerful, for it seems as if such people have almost superhuman virtues. And often those blessed with wealth often agree: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall” (Proverbs 18:11).

This is one reason why His disciples are so shocked when Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom God!” (Mark 10:23). It was assumed that the rich had a fast track to heaven while the poor would be left behind to wallow in the dust.

More recently, this common assumption has been turned on its head; now the poor have the inside track while the rich remain outside, condemned as villains through and through. But when it comes to the final judgment, both assumptions are wrong. “Is [God] not the One . . . who shows no partiality to princes and does not favor the rich over the poor, for they are all the work of his hands?” (Job 34:18–19).

The central question for rich and poor alike is the one posed by the rich young man: “‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Mark 10:17). The young man turns away from Jesus because what he had was more valuable to him than what he might have. If he had accepted Jesus’ offer to sell everything and follow Him, he would have been on the road to eternal life. He was not excluded because he was rich; he was accepted. He was the one who declined because the riches of this life outweighed for him the riches of the next.

—Eric Kampmann, Signposts

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