“Again I tell you, 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.” (Matthew 19:24)
In today’s Gospel passage, the disciples are astonished to hear Jesus say it is hard for the rich to enter heaven. Is it that God is against riches? Wasn’t Abraham the richest man on earth in his time? After Job’s trials, didn’t God restore his riches twice as much as he had before? Even Solomon, when God told him to ask for anything and he asked only for wisdom, didn’t God add riches as well? Isn’t it the case that “the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it”? (Prov. 10:22) Why then would it be hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God?
1. Pride: Wealth makes us think of ourselves as better than others. With our riches, we begin to think we can buy anybody and even buy God; we stop mingling with “ordinary people”; we move with bullion vans, convoys and sirens, we no longer obey traffic laws – everyone else must wait for us to pass; everything we do has to attract the attention, admiration and adoration of others. Addressing the prince of Tyre in our first reading, God says:
“Because your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, …(yet you are but a man, and no god)… by your wisdom and your understanding, you have gotten wealth for yourself,’ … therefore thus says the Lord GOD: ‘…behold, I will bring strangers upon you, the most terrible of the nations; and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of your wisdom and defile your splendour’” (Ezekiel 28:2-7). Basically, wealth makes us think of ourselves as gods and since there is only one God in heaven, we cannot go and be competing with God.
2. Idolatry: To be idolatrous is to love created things more than God. As Jesus teaches us, the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27, Cf. Deut. 6:5, 10:12, 13:3, Joshua 22:5, 1 Kings 8:23). Let us honestly ask ourselves: Is my desire for God even up to my desire for the things I crave for – gold and silver, nice cars, fat bank accounts, academic degrees, landed properties, sophisticated toys and so on?
The only thing we shall be doing in heaven is to worship God, to sing His praises, to adore Him continuously. If I consider such things as boring to me, if I have no desire for God, what is my business with heaven?
3. Selfishness: The third reason heaven is hard for the rich is selfishness; this is why 99% of the world’s riches are in the hands of just 1% of the world’s population. There is enough to round but unfortunately, the only law in this animal kingdom is the “survival of the fittest.” We do not mind seeing others crushed to death just to ensure we have enough of this world’s riches. The greatest sin of rich is to have so much to waste forgetting (or pretending not to know) that millions are languishing in poverty.
God is love. Heaven (God’s abode) is a place where people love each other and everyone thinks of the interest of others. If I cannot practice this love here on earth, it means if I am admitted in heaven, I would end up spoiling it; I would start my dirty politics and engage in games to get things for myself at the expense of others. If I am selfish, heaven is not the right place for me.
If you prefer riches to God (if you would rather walk away from Jesus than give your wealth to help the poor), then forget about heaven. Enjoy as much as you can here, take care of your health, try as much as possible not to die. However, if you are expecting heaven, throw out your idols, mingle with common people, feel their plight, dry the tears of others. Help. And if you are already doing this, don’t ever be discouraged. Jesus says: “Everyone who has left their houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, give me the grace of humility and generosity. Amen
Bible Study: Ezekiel 28:1-10, Deut. 32:26-36, Matthew 19:23-30).