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Sabbath School Lessons on Discipleship
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Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 8: With the Rich and Famous *
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
- Rich Ruler
- 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.")
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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
- Read Matthew 19:20-21. Is this the key to heaven? Selling
our goods and giving them to the poor makes us perfect?
- 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.)
- 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:
- What was the consistent thinking of the rich ruler?
(That obedience would give him heaven -- and he had
- 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.)
- 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?
- 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.)
- 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.)
- On what should the rich ruler depend? (God!)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- Read John 3:3. Has Jesus dispensed with the "small talk?"
(Yes. He gets right to the point.)
- Read John 3:4-10. Nicodemus comes with what he thought
were compliments. Is Jesus complimenting Nicodemus? (No!)
- 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
- Read John 3:11. Is "you people" a compliment? Who,
exactly, is "you people? (Probably the rich and powerful
- 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.")
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.")
- 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
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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.)
- 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?
- Next week: Discipling the Powerful.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.