Rich Men, Camels, and Needles

"The Bible says it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Does that mean rich people can't go to heaven?"  
L.I. , Boston

"The Bible says it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Does that mean rich people can't go to heaven?"  
L.I. , Boston

 

 

This is, indeed, a perplexing statement by Jesus.  What did he mean
when he drew such a sharp contrast between wealth and right
relationship with God?  We should not be dismayed at our puzzlement; after all, the disciples shared it.  There are two reasons for this
"impossibility.” 

 

First, Scripture, calls us to live in mutual
inter-dependence with each other where self-giving love is to
characterize our interactions.  Whatever wealth we possess, then,
cannot be seen simply as ours.  Instead, it is a gift from God given so
that we might imitate God in sharing our goods for the benefit of
others.  Hear one of the early church fathers:

The
rich hold the goods of the poor even if they have inherited them from
their fathers or no matter how they have gathered their wealth.

Secondly, wealth creates an illusion of self-sufficiency.  When we have
plenty, the right relationship between us as creatures and God as
Creator is obscured by our wealth.  We come to believe we are the
masters of our own destiny and we think we do not need God. 

 

Impossibility, though, is not the final word, since making possible the
impossible is a recurrent theme of Scripture.  Sarah, in her old age,
bears Isaac; the enslaved Israelites are brought out of Egypt; Saul,
the persecutor, becomes Paul, the apostle.  With God, the selfishness
of the hoarder can be broken, and the illusion of self-sufficiency can
be dispelled.  It is impossible
for a rich person to enter the kingdom.  But, that impossibility can be
overcome when a person with wealth begins to see their indebtedness to
God and to their fellow humans, that our wealth is not really ours; we
are merely stewards of God's wealth.  Can we give up the illusion of
ownership and self-sufficiency?  If so, the impossible becomes possible
for each of us!

 

For further commentary on this and other issues, join Chuck at imitatiochristi.blogs.com


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