So… You Want to be Rich, eh? Okay…

In Mark’s Gospel, we find Jesus saying the following:

“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 one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”

                                                                         Mark 10: 24-25

Why is it so hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God?

For those of us who do not have a personal money tree in our backyard, perhaps it will be helpful to understand the word ‘rich’ in this scripture as not only referring to money, but also as being rich or having an abundance ‘of smarts, etc.’

The ‘rich’ in intellect are those gifted ‘with smarts’ and who naturally or often through study, reflection and/or advanced education, can ‘understand and know’ things that many others simply can not.  Being smart and intelligent is a gift from God, just like being athletic or very attractive: there are smart rich, middle class and poor folks as there are also very intelligent youth, middle aged and older folks.  So… what makes it so hard for ‘the smart and intelligent,’ to enter God’s Kingdom?

Well, speaking from personal experience… It is soooooooo very easy for those of us with an intellect to overly respect and to trust in it, believing that we actually know something that we don’t!!!  I’ve had many occasions of this false knowing – that is, believing I know fully about x, whatever x is – instead of humbly acknowledging the limitations of my intelligence.  This is especially true today, when a good hour of ‘internet study’ can make almost anyone feel like they are a scholar!!! Yes, I am smart – but my smarts are limited to certain areas or disciplines, as are the intellectual gifts of all people. No one knows everything!!!

Simply stated, it is easy for the naturally intelligent and educated professional to think they can easily understand and grasp certain things, especially if they are of a spiritual nature – like the spiritual life and scripture – simply because of one’s intelligence and gifts!  By our pride, we ‘intelligent and educated people’ can actually out think ourselves very easily, often failing realize just how spiritual truths  actually become  known and confirmed in life: by simply obeying and  living them out and rarely if ever by  understanding them only.  After all, who does not understand the Ten Commandments?   Has any been saved by that understanding without obeying and living them out?  Can any be saved simply by understanding Jesus’ Laws of Love?  That kind of unhealthy pride in and of our intellectual gifts, can make us an easy prey for the evil one…

This unhealthy kind of intellectual pride is often vocalized starting with the following, “…well, I believe and think that…” or “…well, from my study (of the Bible), I found that…”, etc.. Then, after pontificating about what s/he spiritually believes or knows, it is easy to move on and to explain why, based on that reason and understanding, one is also excused from simply and obediently following some part of God’s Law.  It’s no wonder, that Judas was arguably the smartest of the Apostles and also that hell is probably populated with a lot of naturally smart people…

It is true: a keen and quick business intelligence plus hard work can and does often lead many to become financially ‘rich’ in America. For some of these smart and successful business people, the selfish and low hanging fruit of vices like, becoming a ka-billionaire and living lives of wanton pleasure, are willfully chosen.  These financially  empowered choices can rapidly  shape  one’s  character and person, from being a humble child of God into being  a very powerful mean, selfish and unholy person!!!  For these, who are ‘richly’ blessed but choose to disregard God’s invitation to work for the higher and selfless fruits of serving and loving others, they can find it easier to have that ‘Camel pass through the eye of a needle than to enter the Kingdom of God’ – despite being doubly rich, with both intelligence and money!!!

In Mark’s Gospel he continues, explaining how upon hearing this the Apostles,

“…were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves,                      ‘Then who can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men it is impossible, but not for God.                                                                  All things are possible for God.”

                                                                                                         Mark 10: 26-27

Today, I know many can quote and understand Jesus’ statement in Mk 10:24-5  literally and are not surprised by it at all, like the Apostles were upon originally hearing it. I wonder in my heart, how many now days can really understand and explore the true spiritual ‘richness’ of this verse, and in doing so, can also apply it  to the many different contexts that  make up their lives?

For instance, how many hardcore and conservative Catholics, who believe and have pride in our faith as the ‘fullness of the faith,’ truly understand that if this statement IS the truth, then how much more  will actually be required of us – as religiously and spiritually ‘rich’ Catholics?  It’s times like these, when I am especially grateful that “All things are possible for God.”

My prayer for all, is that as we grow to see and understand the varieties of ‘richness’ we are truly blessed with, that our willingness to love and  serve others will also grow…  In short, that the more we come to see and live out the richness gifted to us, the more we – by grace – will also become empowered to  give our rich gifts  away, especially to those who need them the most!





Author: P. J. West, Jr.

Paul J. West Jr. is a cradle Catholic and native Chicagoan who has ministered in Catholic Schools, parishes and hospitals for over two decades. His current ministries are focused on both hospital chaplaincy and writing. Prior to this, he ministered as an educator for almost twenty five years teaching religion, scripture, philosophy and ethics at four Chicago area high schools and adults at the Chicago Catholic Scripture School. His parish ministry has included preaching, teaching, writing and serving as a Eucharistic minister. Mr. West, who is native south sider, has been married for almost 30 years to Dr. Joy West. They have raised four beautiful daughters who are all hardcore Bears and White Sox fans!!!!

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