Pity the Rich

Mark 10:17-27
1 Ptr 1:3-9 / Psa 111

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.
(Mark 10:25)

What worth are all the world’s treasure
If in the end I lose my soul?
Strive for the prize beyond measure:
God’s kingdom, our eternal goal.

As Jesus was starting out on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’ ” The man said, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.” When the man heard this, his face fell, and he went away sad, because he was very rich. Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words, so Jesus went on to say, “My children, how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” At this the disciples were completely amazed and asked one another, “Who, then, can be saved?” Jesus looked straight at them and answered, “This is impossible for human beings but not for God; all things are possible for God.” (Mark 10:17-27)

Reflection

A few years ago, a young man we knew whose family’s estate must be worth over a billion Pesos committed suicide. “Why would anyone who has practically everything in life do such a tragic thing?” I asked a friend. He replied, “Mong, sometimes those who have everything are really the ones who have nothing.” How wise those words are. Having so much wealth can reduce the value of everything else, until there is nothing left worth appreciating, or being grateful for. In the end it might be one’s great wealth that will cause him to lose interest in seeking the most important pearl of great price, eternal life in God’s kingdom.

Jesus was not against wealth per se. What He was condemning was one’s attachment to his wealth. Too much preoccupation with our possessions is a great distraction from what is most essential: our right relationship with God and neighbor. It is not money but our desire for it that is the root of evil. As Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and mammon” (Mt.6:24). One will inevitably displace the other. And the man who puts his trust in his money can never be happier than a poorer man who puts his trust in God. “Sleep is sweet to the laboring man, whether he eats little or much, but the rich man’s abundance allows him no sleep” (Eccl.5:11).

There is an exception, however, for some very wealthy people who live happy and fulfilled lives. They are those who are not obsessed with their fortunes, but with the mission that their fortunes entail. Their obsession lies in being God’s stewards, knowing that they have a great responsibility to use their wealth for the benefit of many. Philanthropists find joy in giving because they see the good that their riches can do. Proverbs says, ”Honor the Lord with your wealth… then will your barns be filled with grain, with new wine your vats will overflow” (Prov.3:9-10). Depending on our outlook in life, wealth can either be a blessing or a curse. Out of His love for him, Jesus was offering that man a rare chance to gain His eternal blessing. But because of his love for his possessions, the man walked away, a lost soul. This must be why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt.5:3). St. Peter intoned the same message in the first reading: the followers of Jesus seek “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you who by the power of God are safeguarded through faith, to a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the final time” (1Ptr.1:4-5). In the end, it may be the poor who are indeed more fortunate.

May we never be presumptuous like that man to think that we can “inherit” Your kingdom, Lord God; instead, we pray daily for Your kingdom to come, and Your will be done in our life, so that we may grow in Your grace, and be free from all earthly desires. Amen.

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