Theological Insights from a Modern Perspective

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!

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Comments on: "Is it impossible for the rich to enter heaven? Are you rich?" (3)

  1. Hey Mike!

    Allow to “warn” you in advance that I will probably be “spamming” your site with likes and comments, since my little absence from the blogging world also kept me absent from my favorite blogs.

    Now I have 2 questions for you. The first one is regarding philosophy and the second is more directed related to this post.

    1) Have you ever read Plato? If so what are your thoughts on his view of an aristocratic society, whose main focus is placed on education and knowledge and regards the importance of money as one of the most evil corrupting aspects needed for the decay of a just society, as well as the one of the inducing factors for other vices?

    2) Would you say that a person who’s very attached to friends and family members is rich with company? And if so, would their strong attachment/dependency to these people impede him/her into entering heaven? (I know I’m stretching this one a bit, but I’m curious on your thoughts on these kinds of relationships)

    ~Lex

    Like

    • 1) Have you ever read Plato? If so what are your thoughts on his view of an aristocratic society, whose main focus is placed on education and knowledge and regards the importance of money as one of the most evil corrupting aspects needed for the decay of a just society, as well as the one of the inducing factors for other vices?

      I have read some of Plato and Aristotle, but would not consider myself an expert on either one. Anything that is held too dearly can be a corrupting influence on society…money, property, knowledge. Many societies have existed without money (the Australian Aborigines and American Indians (vs. other Native American cultures) as two examples) and corruption entered into them as well. The writers of the Philokalia stated it best when they cautioned that any of man’s Passions (gluttony, fornication, avarice, sorrow, anger, accidie (sloth), vainglory and pride) can, if left uncontrolled, corrupt man. I would venture to say that more wars have been fought over envy and avarice that over any other cause…even in today’s wars.

      As a scientist I have spoke to many in the scientific fields who I would characterize as corrupted by their knowledge, being unwilling to consider any views counter to their own. Science is supposed to be openminded, and willing to consider any viewpoint, and when I entered the field this was true. In recent decades that has change to where many call those with dissenting views as heretics. Reminiscent of the days when scientist put to death any who dared state that everything was not compose of four elements: fire, earth, water, and air.

      2) Would you say that a person who’s very attached to friends and family members is rich with company? And if so, would their strong attachment/dependency to these people impede him/her into entering heaven? (I know I’m stretching this one a bit, but I’m curious on your thoughts on these kinds of relationships)

      I will answer this as both yes and no. Christ said that there is no greater love than that one give up one’s life for a friend (though I think him wrong here, I think those in the military who give up their lives for complete strangers is an even greater love).

      On the other hand, Christ also tells us that to love God more than family is more important, and one who would cling to loved ones and follow them into sin would qualify as too “rich with company.” He cautioned that many families would be divided between those who follow him and those who do not; and that is true even today. Look at the people in India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, who are put to death because of their beliefs, even by family members. This can go both ways, if we are not cautious, many have been put to death because they did

        not

      believe in Jesus, and he never asked us to do that. In fact, he berated Peter when Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus in the garden at Kidron.

      I hope this gave you the answers you were looking for. I encourage questions and challenges. I am only human, these are my opinions based on my training and study; I do not claim them to be Gospel, and my mind is open to opposing opinions. Over the years I have change my views based on others, and on further study into issues.

      Like

      • Thank you! I don’t disagree with you. Although, I’ll encourage you to read Plato. A lot of what he says is very interesting and has turned out to be true. One of the things that shocked me the most was how in “The Republic” he outlined how society would decline and why, and it is shocking to see that his words hold truth centuries later.

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