The rich and the Kingdom of Heaven

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Matthew 19: 24 

 How often people try to soften this harsh saying of Jesus. Those who are rich have a extremely difficult time entering into the Kingdom of justice, love, and peace which Jesus lived and proclaimed, the Kingdom which we followers of Christ as supposed to show in our everyday lives.

I am re-reading Néstor Jaén’s Toward a Liberation Spirituality (Loyola University Press, 1991, p. 37), preparing for a retreat I will be facilitating next month.  Jesuit Father Jaén notes that Jesus has a special place in his heart and teachings for the poor. This does not mean that Jesus does not love the rich. As Jaén notes:

“Those who work for liberation also work to prevent Jesus’ harsh statement…from being fulfilled in rich people, who are after all, their brothers and sisters…. very often, even with the most sympathetic possible pastoral approach, the rich do not cede even an inch in their positions and in their striving to amass wealth. In that case, given the harm to society that they cause with both their attitude and the actions which flow from it, we must go on to denunciation and to appropriate action. That is what Jesus did, and we must do the same. In his kindness Jesus never rejected any rich person who came to him with an open heart (Zaccheus, the rich young man, Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus), but he railed at the rich as a social class, as a way of life, and as an attitude. No one can say that the Lord did not love the rich. He most certainly loved them, but for that very reason he castigated them and demanded that they become detached from their wealth.”

Living in a  world of massive inequity between the few very rich and the majority very poor, we are called to love the rich but not leave them complacent, wallowing in their wealth, not seeing the poor at their gates, not willing to share.

That is a challenge to those of us who are rich.

For those who do not share are not participating in the Kingdom of God.



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