Jesus looked around and said to his disciples,
"How hard it is for those who have wealth
to enter the kingdom of God!"
The disciples were amazed at his words.
It seems an odd for the diciples to be so hung up on wealth. "Holy Crap!" they appear to be saying. "If rich people can't be saved, then who can?"
If this is an accurate reflection of the cultural values they grew up with, then the freedom that Jesus offered through poverty must have appeared stunningly foolhardy -- just crazy enough to work!!! But remannts of their upbringning clung to them as Jesus blew heir minds with
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."
The sense of existential panic on the part of the disciples is almost palpable. Rich people can't get into heaven? We are so screwed!
These sentiments sound rather quaint today, but the reality is all around us. Our national leaders seem rather self-satisfied in the success they have achieved. Rich nations boast of being "the best country in the world" when they do little to alleviate the suffering of the poor and gobble up riches that are the patrimony of all. The rich, the powerful and the beautiful are idolized and attended to because of the clothes they wear, the spouses they accumulate, the cheekbones they chisel and the cut of their hair. We may think we are going to Heaven, but we sure do wish we could be a little sleeker, more elegant, thinner and beautiful when we got there.
But the riches of heaven are not acumulated by excess and consumption, but by emptying oneself. Get rid of the stuff you are convinced defines you and gives you identity. Give it to the poor, and come with me, and I'll teach you something worth hanging onto. Rid yourself of what keeps you in the counting house and out of sight of those who could use the money.
This week, we saw the Nobel Peace prize go to a man who made micro-loans to poor women in Pakistan. The loans could be for as little as $27. But what a difference those few dollars could make. A woman whose experience was bounded by her village walls now has access to phone calls from the world, and makes money and gains influence as a "phone woman". She arranges calls between those inside the village and the entire rest of the world. Her horizons expand; her literacy is put to use; her wisdom is sought after; a community finds itself just a bit less isolated and hopeless, for the generosoty and trust of a single person.
What we do with our possessions is a test of our character. How much can we keep? How much must we store? How much could we give away? In my cellar, I have boxes and boxes of books I have not read in years. This year, I need to donate them to the library or to one of the many programs avaiabsle for those -- like the incarcerated -- who could use them.
The commercil asks, "What's in our wallet?" What's in your closet -- clothes? Old books? Shoes? Machinery? What can you get rid of and put to better use?