Jesus speaks of money, and the rich, more than any other topic. All of the Synoptic Gospels carry his homilies and parables on money and the wealthy. Think it’s a coincidence? The chasm between the rich and the poor isn’t just a modern phenomena, it’s as old as when Grog had a club and Haggar did not.
One of the most famous encounters in the Gospels is that of the man seeking perfection. He asks Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life, to which Jesus tells him to live the Commandments. This, he tells Jesus, he has done. Jesus then tells the young man, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” We are then told that the man’s face fell and he walked away in silence. Jesus just dealt him a great blow, for the man had “great possessions.”
Jesus looks sadly at the man as he leaves, then addresses the crowd with those all too famous words, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Many a preacher has started off their sermons with these words, then hammered into the congregation about the evils of money…only to end the sermon asking for money. Ironic. But, that is for another discourse. What I want to concentrate on now is the oft forgotten piece of this story, and what is really its’ main theme, the final words of Jesus on the subject, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Hope. Jesus never shatters our illusions, only to leave us with no hope, for Jesus is all about hope. And this story is not all about money.
Jesus had many wealthy friends; Lazarus (whom he raised from the dead), and Joseph of Aramathea who was a follower of Jesus right to the moment of his execution, and beyond. Jesus never said the wealthy cannot enter into heaven, but that they cannot do it on their own…they need the Grace of God, for it is only with his Grace that “all things are possible.”
The sum of all of Jesus parables can be put in a single sentence, “no one can enter into heaven of their own accord, but with the Grace of God all things are possible.” With the faith of a mustard seed you can move mountains, but far more than that is needed to enter heaven of our own actions…when was the last time you moved a mountain? We can’t do it on our own, if we could then Jesus suffering and death was meaningless, because we could have done it on our own. We need that Grace, that Gift from God, to be able to enter into His realm. Ask, humbly, as the Publican, and it will be deemed righteous unto you.
Now, I said this story was not all about money. Why? Because, as well meaning as the translators were, they got it wrong. The Greek word χρῆμαta does not exclusively mean money, it means possessions. After that is the word πολλa means many. This is a man who had a great number of possessions, which meant a great deal to him. We would say he was living his life by the adage “He who dies with the most toys wins.”
It is not so much a matter of having lots of money, or lots of things, but how you view them. How important are those possessions to you? Could you walk away from them? Could you sell everything you have and give the money to the poor, trusting in God to provide? Are your possessions so important that you have taken steps to protect them? If you have one thing that is so important that you could not give it up, that you would do anything to keep, then you have one item too many…YOU ARE RICH!