Grace to you!
Addressing his disciples after a rich man asked the question about what to do to inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus stated a shocking truth.
He said: “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).
This is more than shocking and to the apostles, it was dispiriting. They couldn’t pretend all was well; hence they replied: “If this is the case, then who can be saved?” To which Jesus replied, “For man it is impossible but not for God, for with God all things are possible.”
Why is it going to be hard or very difficult (duskolos)—to use a more close-in-meaning concept employed by Jesus in the original Greek text—for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom? I have a few suggestions for our meditations.
First, anything we possess that we don’t need is a distraction from God’s plan in our life. Hanging on to those things could make serving God and being of service to one another very difficult. Those things can cost us heaven.
Second, if we spend energy on what we don’t need, we unwittingly fall short of doing or spending our resources on what we need. Toss the junk and be freer.
Third, amassing wealth we don’t need has a way of increasing our love for ourselves. Another name for it is selfishness or egocentricism that could lead to narcissism. A narcissist hardly has a space for another person. He hardly has space for God either. Self-absorption is heaven’s repulsion.
Fourth, riches in the sense of what we don’t need are to our spiritual life what excess fat is to our body. The imbalance of excess fat could be alluded to the spiritual imbalance which could occur. What we don’t need causes us anxiety and we end up spending the time we should use for more edifying things trying to protect them.
Five, the danger of hoarding is higher too. Hoarding isn’t simply about cluttered homes or cars; it could also be about cluttered minds and foggy spirit. Constant worries about how the stock market is doing or how our home is maintained; always calculating how to manage our properties, or securities, or our shares, etc., because they are more than we can handle with a sense of balance, can be spiritually suffocating. Such is a hazard on heaven’s path. Sometimes, less is better than more.
Six, if our heart is so attached to wealth, the temptation of a false god of “what I have” and a false sense of identity that “I am worth my bank accounts” is high. The danger is God is placed secondary and our neighbor’s dignity and relevance wouldn’t even have a chance. Hence, Jesus stated that just as it is difficult for the camel to pass through the eye of a needle, so it would be for the rich to enter God’s kingdom. (I would reflect on new insights into the meaning of this “eye of a needle” saying of Jesus tomorrow).
In the meantime, if it is that difficult, though not impossible, for the rich to enter God’s kingdom, what are we expected to do?
Here is my simple spiritual advice: Whatever we have that we don’t need belongs to somebody else. For example, are there pairs of shoes, or clothes in your closet you haven’t used in years? It’s about time to gift them to someone who would use them. We would be doing ourselves great spiritual favor if we declutter.
Being rich isn’t bad. It’s actually good. But not using our wealth for needs is a spiritual barrier. We don’t need that barrier.
Let’s pray for one another.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Week 20, Ordinary Time: Ezekiel 28:1-10; Matthew 19:23-30]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.