Meditation: Was Jesus really against wealth (Matthew
19:23)? And why did he issue such a strong warning to the rich (as well
as to the rest of us who desire to be rich)? We know that Jesus was not
opposed to wealth per se, nor was he opposed to the wealthy. He
had many friends who were well-to-do, including some notorious tax
collectors! One even became an apostle! Jesus' warning reiterated the
wisdom of the Old Testament: "Better is a poor man who walks in
his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways" (Proverbs
28:6; see also Psalm 37:16). "Do not wear yourself out to get rich; be
wise enough to desist" (Proverbs 23:4).
We are all poor beggars in need of God
Jesus seems to say that it is nearly impossible for the rich to live as citizens of God's kingdom. The camel was regarded as the largest animal in Palestine. The "eye of the needle" could be interpreted quite literally or it could figuratively describe the narrow and low gate of the city walls which was used by travelers when the larger public gate was locked at night. Normal sized people had to "lower" themselves to enter that gate. A camel would literally have to kneel and crawl through it. Until we humbly kneel before the Lord and acknowledge our total need and dependence on him, we will not find true peace, security, and happiness that can sustain us now and forever. Only God alone can satisfy our deepest need and longing.
Augustine of Hippo reminds us that we are all poor beggars of God.
"Even though you possess plenty, you are still poor. You abound in temporal possessions, but you need things eternal. You listen to the needs of a human beggar, yet you yourself are a beggar of God. What you do with those who beg from you is what God will do with his beggar. You are filled and you are empty. Fill your empty neighbor from your fullness, so that your emptiness may be filled with God's fullness." (Sermon 56,9)
Possessions can create false security and independence
Why is Jesus so cautious about wealth? Wealth can make us falsely independent. The church at Laodicea was warned about their attitude towards wealth and a false sense of security: "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing" (Revelations 3:17). Wealth can also lead us into hurtful desires and selfishness (see 1 Timothy 6:9-10). Look at the lesson Jesus gave about the rich man and his sons who refused to aid the poor man Lazarus (see Luke 16:19ff). They neglected to serve God. Only those who put their trust in God and who depend on him, and who share what they have with those in need, will find true peace, security, and happiness which lead to everlasting life and joy in God's kingdom.
Where is your treasure?
The Scriptures give us a paradox - we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away. Generosity will be amply repaid, both in this life and in the age to come (Proverbs 3:9-10, Luke 6:38). Jesus offers us an incomparable treasure which no money can buy and no thief can steal. The thing we most set our heart on is our highest treasure. Material wealth will shackle us to this earth unless we guard our hearts and set our treasure in God and his everlasting kingdom. Where is your treasure?
"Lord Jesus, you have captured our hearts and opened to us the treasures of heaven. May you always be my treasure and delight and may nothing else keep me from giving you my all."
This reflection is courtesy of Don Schwager, whose website is located at: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/