Jesus certainly hit hard when it came to His talks about worldly riches. It should be pretty clear that He did not mean that they constitute a total obstacle to salvation for all who possess them, but it should be conceded that He plainly said that they can be an instrument of ruination in the hands of certain people and this because of the temptations that it provokes and the fascination that it holds. Frankly, I think that the heart-tie to worldly wealth and material things is the strongest tie which holds Man to Earth and distracts him from thoughts of Heaven. It’s very hard to find a materially wealthy man who is deeply connected to Spirit – one who knows God’s voice and who moves according to His will. I’ve never met one (though I’ve met lots of religious ones).
As I have shared, Jesus had a whole lot to say about this topic, but to boil it all down, what He basically said is that riches make the journey DIFFICULT and for many it essentially KILLS their life in Spirit, but it is not impossible that riches become a blessing and a means of salvation for those who learn to use them as led by the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus said to the young man (the “Rich Young Ruler”), who inquired how he could obtain eternal life, that he should dispose of all his worldly goods and follow Him, it did not mean that Jesus was establishing an absolute principle, that everyone should get rid of everything they possess. Jesus was basically conducting A TEST which was designed to uncover the depths of this man’s thoughts. Beyond a doubt, this fellow looked like a good and perfectly honest man in the eyes of the world, him never causing harm to anyone, never cursing his neighbours, never being vain, futile or prideful, and always honouring his mother and father. But still he did not possess TRUE CHARITY, because his virtues did not go as far as self-abnegation. This is what Jesus wished to demonstrate to this man (and to us by extension) by applying the principle: Without charity (genuine sacrificial living and giving out for others) there is no salvation (or transformation into the likeness and image of Christ).
And so the same message is being given out to people today and for the same purpose. It’s not that riches themselves are to blame for anything, but rather mankind who misuses them. It is through ill usage that humanity constantly turns what could be extremely useful for the kingdom into something that is self-serving and pernicious.
Of course (and as Brad has pointed out), Jesus by way of His interaction with the Rich Young Ruler was ALSO talking about those who consider themselves to be wealthy in the spiritual sense — BOTH views making up a composite of sorts. This leads me to think of Jesus’ comments/teaching about the blessedness of the poor in spirit. Maybe we’re going there next.