Introduction: Money is a tricky thing. In the last few weeks I’ve
referred to Deuteronomy 28, which teaches that those who follow God’s
commands will be materially blessed. It was this rule of life that
caused Job’s friends to argue that his loss of wealth and other
problems were due to Job’s failure to obey God. Even Job believed
this, for in Job 31 he recounted his obedience and demanded a hearing
in which God would have to answer him. On the other hand, in Matthew
19:24 Jesus equates money with an inability to get into heaven. How
can obedience lead to wealth, but then wealth keeps you out of
heaven? Let’s jump into our study of the Bible and see what we can

  1. Rich Ruler

    1. Read Matthew 19:16-17. If someone asked you this question,
      how would you respond? (I would say “There is nothing good
      you can do to enter heaven. Instead, you must rely on what
      Jesus did on your behalf.”)

      1. What did Jesus answer? (I think Jesus said
        essentially the same thing – only God is good so
        don’t ask me what good thing you can do.)

      2. Some translations say, “Good Master” or “Good
        Teacher,” but the majority of those I consulted do
        not include “good” to describe Jesus. The problem
        with translating this as “Good Master” is that Jesus
        seems to respond that only God is good and He (Jesus)
        is not God. What problem does that present? (Jesus is
        God! The way the NIV, and many others, translate this
        is consistent with the general teaching of the Bible
        on the Trinity.)

      3. Notice that notwithstanding what I just wrote, Jesus
        clearly says, “Keep the commandments.” Should it be
        our goal to keep the commandments? (Yes, of course.)

    2. Read Matthew 19:18-19. Consider Jesus’ list of
      commandments. What is odd about them? (Jesus only lists
      our obligations to others. He does not list any of our
      obligations to God.)

      1. The rich ruler’s question assumes that keeping some
        of the commandments is sufficient, and Jesus replies
        with a partial list. Is keeping part of the
        commandments good enough? ( James 2:10-11 tells us
        that violating one commandment is a violation of them

    3. Read Matthew 19:20-21. Is this the key to heaven? Selling
      our goods and giving them to the poor makes us perfect?

    4. Read Matthew 19:22-25. I know why I’m astonished by
      Jesus’ conversation with the rich ruler, why are the
      disciples “exceedingly amazed?” (They had the Deuteronomy
      28 understanding of things – this young fellow was blessed
      because he was good. In addition, the rich ruler said he
      had been obedient.)

    5. Read Matthew 19:26. Finally, we get to an answer from
      Jesus that seems to fit the rest of the Bible. Let’s
      consider a series of questions:

      1. What was the consistent thinking of the rich ruler?
        (That obedience would give him heaven — and he had
        been obedient.)

      2. What do we ultimately learn about the rich ruler?
        (That he could not (or did not) obey. He was
        unwilling to sell all that he had.)

      3. Is it possible that with His questions Jesus was
        “playing along” with the rich ruler in order for the
        rich ruler to see the truth – that he could not work
        his way into heaven?

      4. If Jesus was “playing along,” why didn’t He say to
        the rich ruler, “I was just kidding you, the key to
        heaven is grace, there is nothing you can do to be
        saved – including giving away your money or your
        life?” (Read 1 Corinthians 13:3 and compare.)

    6. Re-read Matthew 19:23-24. This hardly sounds like Jesus is
      kidding about money being a problem. What do you think
      Jesus means? Is there one theme in this entire dialog?
      (Jesus’ conclusion ( Matthew 19:26) is that salvation is
      impossible for men, but possible through God. If we work
      back from that, we see that this rich ruler depended first
      on his works and second on his wealth. These were things
      within his power. Jesus showed the rich ruler he was wrong
      about his works, and Jesus shows us that the ruler was
      dependent on his money.)

      1. On what should the rich ruler depend? (God!)

        1. If that is true, was giving away his money
          about helping the poor or about saving the rich
          ruler? (It was all about the rich ruler. The
          question was whether he would trust God or his
          money. He decided to trust his money.)

    7. Read Matthew 19:27-28. Peter and the disciples say they
      have left everything and followed Jesus. What does Jesus
      say the disciples will have? Things? (No. Power.)

    8. Read Matthew 19:29. I see two things on this list that
      represent wealth – houses and fields. Does it seem that
      this is a discussion of money? (No! This is about putting
      God first. Depending on God.)

      1. Let me ask you again, why is it hard for a rich
        person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? (This is about
        grace and dependance. We cannot depend on our works.
        We cannot depend on our money. We cannot depend upon
        family. We must depend only upon God.)

  2. Nicodemus

    1. Read John 3:1. What do we learn about Nicodemus? (He was a
      man of influence. In the past I’ve read extra-Biblical
      sources that indicate that the House of Nicodemus was one
      of the richest.)

    2. Read John 3:2. I think Nicodemus intended to compliment
      Jesus. If you were Jesus, would you be complimented? (No.
      Nicodemus comes at night, which makes it appear he does
      not want to be seen with Jesus. He says Jesus is a
      teacher, he does not acknowledge that He is the Messiah.)

    3. Read John 3:3. Has Jesus dispensed with the “small talk?”
      (Yes. He gets right to the point.)

    4. Read John 3:4-10. Nicodemus comes with what he thought
      were compliments. Is Jesus complimenting Nicodemus? (No!)

      1. What does this teach us about dealing with the rich
        and powerful? (Jesus shares truth with Nicodemus, but
        He is not compromising truth to get Nicodemus to
        endorse Him.)

    5. Read John 3:11. Is “you people” a compliment? Who,
      exactly, is “you people? (Probably the rich and powerful

    6. Read John 3:12-15. We discussed earlier the issue about
      Jesus denying that He was God. What does Jesus say here
      about His divinity? (He says that He “came from heaven.”)

      1. Unlike the rich ruler, we are not given Nicodemus’
        final reaction to this discussion. What does Jesus
        say that indicates Nicodemus was probably thinking
        about whether he would accept Jesus as the Messiah?
        (Jesus predicts exactly how He will die. This was
        powerful proof to Nicodemus.)

    7. Read John 7:50 and John 19:38-40. What did Nicodemus
      ultimately decide about Jesus? (We see that Nicodemus
      spoke against Jesus’ arrest and that he helped claim
      Jesus’ body and prepared it for burial.)

    8. Let’s get back to Jesus’ final statements in the interview
      with Nicodemus. Read John 3:16-18. What is the standard
      for the judgment? (Belief. If you do not believe in Jesus,
      you are “condemned already.” The “already” suggests that
      our works do not earn salvation. If you don’t believe, we
      don’t need to get into the issue of your works.)

    9. Read John 3:19-21. Is there a connection between belief in
      Jesus and works? (If you do evil, you love darkness. If
      you live by the truth, you love the light because your
      works have “been done through God.”)

  3. Attitude

    1. Read Luke 16:13-15 and Deuteronomy 8:17-18. What are some
      major attitude issues for those who are rich? (A superior
      attitude. First, the attitude that they are responsible
      for their wealth, and second, an attitude of devotion to

      1. How does that fit into the two stories we studied:
        the rich ruler and Nicodemus? (The rich ruler was
        looking for an affirmation of his righteousness.
        Nicodemus, was offended when Jesus told him that he
        needed to do something different to be saved.)

      2. Do you have to be rich to love money? (No. Some love
        money (and are covetous of the rich) because they
        don’t have any. They, too, are devoted to money.)

    2. When Jesus says in Matthew 19:23 that it is hard for a
      rich man (woman) to enter Heaven, what do you now think He
      meant? (Getting into heaven turns on grace, dependence on
      God. Wealthy people often have the attitude of self-dependence. The two attitudes are in tension.)

    3. Friend, what is your attitude towards money? Do you depend
      on it? Why not commit today to depending on God – whether
      for salvation or for your daily needs?

  4. Next week: Discipling the Powerful.