You Are the Rich Man
Gospel Reflection for August 16, 2022
Jesus said to his disciples: “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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For men this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” Then Peter said to him in reply, “We have given up everything and followed you. What will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Matthew 19:23-30)
In today’s Gospel, we are warned about attachment to earthly things such as wealth, possessions, or relationships, as these things will inhibit our entry into the Kingdom of God. As he speaks, Jesus focuses on wealth, indicating that it is difficult for a rich person to enter heaven. Does this mean than Jesus is against wealthy people? Does he have contempt for those who are rich?
No. Jesus is pointing out to us that those who live in comfort on earth are trapped in a false sense of security. When we are prosperous on earth, want for nothing, and have no struggles, we forget about our need for God. We begin to pursue sinful desires and waste our lives chasing earthly things. Wealth is an insidious and sneaky trap that ensnares us and pulls us to earth, taking care of our every earthly need and letting us want for nothing in this life, leaving us to forget that we need God above all. Wealth tends to separate us from those without money, leading us to forget the needs of our neighbor. Rare is the rich man who shares his wealth with the poor, remembering that his money is a gift from God to be shared with those around him. Rare is the rich man who gives away what he has and does not become attached to his comfortable lifestyle. Rare is the rich man who remains grounded and aware of his need for God above the comforts he enjoys.
You are guilty of this, too. We do not realize that we live in an extremely wealthy nation. We rarely stop to think that many others in the world do not have access to things like running water, plentiful food, housing, education, and medicine. The wealthier we grow, the more we forget about the struggle of others in the world. We begin to invent problems and complain about things that are not important. When we should be working to help our poverty-stricken neighbors, we are instead complaining that we don’t make enough money (though we are blessed to have a job), or complaining that our house is too small (though we are blessed to have a house), or complaining that someone at work offended us (as we sit in an air-conditioned office), or complaining that the milk went sour in the fridge (as if we weren’t responsible for letting it waste away to that state).
Just as Jesus warned, this ignorance of our own wealth and the way in which it shackles us to earth is a trap that we did not know we fell into. We must at least be grateful for what we have been given. We must then go further to share our gifts of wealth. We must remember that we are dependent upon God, and when luxuries are taken from us (such as your car breaking down or your water pipes bursting), we should not be angry but instead let it serve as a reminder that others live without these gifts that come from wealth. In remembering that we are rich, we can be generous with our wealth and work to relieve others who are struggling. If we remember that all things are a gift, then if we lose everything tomorrow, we will not be in misery but instead rest in God, who gives us all things. “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is perverse in his ways.” (Proverbs 28:6)
Copyright 2022 Jessica Tucker