Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Is it hard for rich people to enter heaven?

It seems popular these days for Catholics to judge rich people and say it's really hard for them to enter heaven. Some say they hope to never be rich. I heard a heterodox priest once urging young people to not make too much money. Somehow wealth is now seen as objectively bad in and of itself.

One of the most popular verses people use to justify this hatred of the rich or riches is when Jesus says it is more difficult for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven. What you almost never hear though is what Jesus says right after. Here's what it says in Matthew chapter 19, verse 25:

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

At the time, richness was seen as a sign that God was blessing you. Therefore, it was shocking to hear that it would be hard for EVEN rich people to enter heaven. Jesus goes on to say for all men it is impossible. It is only possible for God. Notice Jesus doesn't say for everyone else it's relatively simple, it's only hard for rich people?

I take it more to mean "even the most blessed people will have a hard time entering heaven". Really, it's not only hard, it's impossible. That's because we cannot save ourselves.

I think wealth can be an impediment to holiness, just as anything can. Anything one makes an idol can be an impediment. Your job, your hobbies, your favorite sport, your body, you diet, etc. can all become obsessions which divert our attention away from God. We must worship God alone. I think what Jesus mostly condemns is a person's attachment to money. But he also condemns people who are too attached to positions of power and prestige, too attached to family and friends, or too attached to comfort.

Jesus says we must put God first and nothing should be on par or above him.

A trend I am noticing more from members of the Church is to think the Church speaks infallibly on matter of faith, morals, and economics. I find many people thinking in socialist terms and believing the Church has to endorse their particular policy.

I will get into this more later, but what I personally believe is that the Church guides the behavior of people, not governments. Only a person is a moral being, only they can make good or sinful decisions. You cannot say a country made a sinful decision. When Jesus tells us how to live, he speaks in terms of the individual. He does not advocate government involvement. He tells individuals to feed the hungry and clothe the naked.

As I said, I will delve into that subject more later. The reason I bring it up is because more and more people within the Church seem to think the solution to our problems can all be found in government policies and to not support one of these policies is going against the Church. Many advocate redistribution of wealth and say we as Christians must support this. But I believe there are alternative viewpoints.

Wealth in itself is a good thing. It allows us to live longer, healthier, and happier lives. Instead of condemning wealth, we should find ways for everyone to produce it. There is no limit on wealth. One hundred years ago, there was far less wealth than there is today. Therefore, I would caution against condemning rich people. They have their temptations to overcome just like everyone else.

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