"Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 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." Mark 10:24
For years I was troubled by this passage. I always assumed through reading this passage that anyone who was rich would not enter the kingdom of God. But how could this be? Wasn't Jesus the Lord of all? Even the rich also? It just didn't make any sense to his message of good news. Until recently I held the view that the wealthy were the greatest perpetrators of evil in the world. Everywhere where I looked my view seemed to confirmed by seeing wealthy CEO's making billions through breaking the law, greedy corporations treating their employees as dispensable, corrupt politicians passing bills to protect their own coffers. Even Pope Francis seemed to confirm my views as he preached endlessly about the corruption of our capitalist system. Some bishops even preached "preferential option" for the poor. I was beginning for myself to believe that being wealthy was the path to evil and that Jesus was definitely on the side of the poor. I even began believing in governmental redistribution policies as a way of leveling the playing field for all. I was angry with the corruption of the world and as a believing Christian I began believing that the government needed to step in to rectify the evil of the wealthy.
I believed this way until I reread Jesus' words and Karl Adam's "Son of God."
The true meaning of Jesus' message changed the way I viewed holiness and wealth.
First off the most important thing to realize is that Jesus never offered a comprehensive solution to poverty. Nowhere in the scriptures is their a blueprint for ridding the world of poverty. Jesus even seems allude that poverty will always exist as he reprimands his disciples after a woman anointed his feet with oil saying, "For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me." Matt 26:11 This passage contains the key to understanding Jesus' view on the poor. In this passage Jesus is demonstrating that it is more important to believe in him then on eradicating the world of poverty. Poverty isn't the greatest evil to Jesus, not believing in his message is far worse.
What about the passage about the camel fitting through a needle?
Even in this passage Jesus is not condemning the rich because after he says this he immediately explains himself to his disciples, "With men it is impossible but not with God; for all things are possible with God." Mark 10:26b Instead what he is speaking about is the proper inner disposition that one should have regarding wealth. Jesus is not condemning the rich, he is condemning one's attachment to riches instead. This makes sense because Jesus had several disciples who were wealthy, such as Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and Joanna. What Jesus is saying instead that it is far more difficult for a rich person to enter heaven because his/her wealth might hinder them from seeking God. If a person is materially satisfied then why does he/she need God? That's why Jesus seems to be favoring the poor in his teachings because for them it is far easier to accept his message because they do not have the distraction of wealth. Jesus' greatest message is that one should be detached from all distractions in the spiritual life and this includes wealth. Jesus is not condemning wealth per se but one's attachment to it.
This distinction is important to make because far too many people believe in the evil rich person message. It is important to know that sin resides in the heart of all people, rich and poor alike. A detached wealthy person who loves God is holier then the person who is envious and stokes the fires of class warfare. While a poor person who loves God is holier then rich person who feels that he/she doesn't need God. Holiness lies in the heart of a person not solely in their material possessions.
The meaning of this Jesus view towards the wealthy is vitally important in today's world where the subject of wealth is constantly debated. So the next time you're inclined to believe in the class warfare rhetoric. Stop for a second and pause to hear Jesus' true words and remember that holiness is something that everyone can attain through God's grace whether rich or poor.