Lectionary Reflection: Mark 10: 17-31: Rich People

            Soak the rich.  Make sure they pay their fair share.  We seem to be hearing that a lot these days, but to be honest, that is not the problem.

            Nowhere in scripture does it say money is evil.  Rather, it is the LOVE of money which pulls us away from God and in some cases replaces God as that which we most desire.

            Ask a man who makes 25 thousand a year and they will tell you 50 thousand would be better.  Ask one who makes 50 thousand and they will say six figures is what they really need.  Ask a person who has a million and they will tell you they want 10 million, or 10 million and they want 100 million, or 100 million and they will say they need a billion to be really rich.  You get the idea.  Enough is never enough.

            We could say the problem is human nature, and it may be.  But in that case we would have to say it is part of human nature to be greedy, and it may be.  Greed, as you may note, comes at all economic levels.

            Let me get to the point, because too many misinterpret this passage and the rich suffer too much bad publicity because of it.  Is Jesus saying the rich (and greedy) are not welcome in the Kingdom?  No.  Absolutely not.  Believe it or not, there are many kind, giving and generous people among the rich.  You can start with the Carnegie libraries and work right up to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  (They just don’t let the government make those decisions for them).

            Even the “evil” corporations these days are very generous – and more and more is directed to the local communities in which the Target or Wal-Mart is located.  It may be a ruse for the free and good publicity, but it is doing much good nonetheless.

            No, Jesus did not say the rich are not welcome in heaven, he just said to whom much is given much will be expected; and it is hard.  It is hard, like when I had my wisdom teeth pulled and (no kidding) the dentist had to put his knee on my chest to pull hard.  It is hard like willingly jumping out of a capsule on the edge o space to free-fall back to the earth hard.   It is like winning an iron man competition hard. 

            Here, the young man could not do it.  He could not give all of his wealth away and follow Jesus.  It does not say if maybe he repented later, but it says at that time he LOVED his wealth more than God.  The LOVE of money – and the things money can buy.  We all struggle with this from time to time, rich and poor alike. 

            Meanwhile, against that thing called misinterpretation, let us not make the beginner mistake of generalizing.  Jesus is not saying all rich people should give all of their money to the poor and follow Jesus.  No.  It is not our place to tell the rich person what God expects from them.  That is their headache – to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, as it is said.  Our place is to do some serious self-examination, and how much or little money we have, we are to be sure God remains the one we most desire.

            So Peter jumps in.  “We have given up everything.”

            “What?  A couple of broken down boats and some ratty nets?  You and James had to form a partnership because neither of you could make it on your own.  Even so…”

            He gives a promise.  The people you have left behind – even family and friends – and the jobs you have given up will be returned to you in spades… with persecutions.  A fair warning.  But you see, God is saying he already owns everything, and if you start taking in homeless kids, there will be enough.  He will not leave you wanting.  And again, no.  He is not saying quit work and turn your back on those you love and those who love you, but he is saying, again, if you LOVE God first, that will be enough – even in the face of persecutions. 

            Trust me.  The day you seriously begin to follow the Lord, even family and friends will call you all sorts of weird-o, whack-o names, they will say you have gone insane, and some may even despise you.  And if you are rich, don’t be surprised to hear all about how you aren’t paying your fair share.

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