The Gospel of Matthew

This devotional is written by Ronni Blackford. Ronni lives in North London with her partner, Bek, and too many houseplants. In the future, she hopes to have even more houseplants.

Matthew 19:16-30

The rich and the kingdom of God

 16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, 'Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?'

17 'Why do you ask me about what is good?' Jesus replied. 'There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.'

18 'Which ones?' he enquired.

Jesus replied, '"You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honour your father and mother," and "love your neighbour as yourself."[b]'

20 'All these I have kept,' the young man said. 'What do I still lack?'

21 Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, 'Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.'

25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, 'Who then can be saved?'

26 Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'

27 Peter answered him, 'We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?'

28 Jesus said to them, 'Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Reflection

It's said that Albert Einstein once declared: "coincidence is God's way of staying anonymous." If you dig into the sources behind the attribution, you'll probably come up empty handed - but I imagine it would still get a lot of likes on Instagram. You'd see it posted by some motivational account, written in cursive letters against a stock image of a rolling landscape.

When I first read the passage, I seemed to remember covering these same verses in a devotional I wrote at the beginning of the Covid pandemic. What a coincidence, I thought.

 I'd actually written about Luke 13, but ended the devotional by relating the verse "some who seem least important now will be the greatest then" to the low-paid key workers who were just starting to be celebrated amidst the first lockdown.

And here we are in Matthew 19, in which Jesus tells us: "but many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."

Throughout this passage, Jesus points out how God succeeds in all things where humans fail, highlighting that only they (God) are good; that what seems utterly impossible to us is infinitely possible to them (God). But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to be good-er tomorrow than we are today, even if we'll never reach perfect goodness.

The coincidence of writing on this echoed sentiment really got me thinking: what does 'last-to-first-ness' look like in my life? While I would be a fool to promise that I will always ensure that those who are usually last are first around me, I have to ask myself: in what ways can I strive more towards that?

I hope you'll join me in praying that God would give me the sight to recognise all the ways in which I am first, and help me to shift aside to allow those behind me to step forward.

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