The Fate of the Rich

Matthew 19:

20 The young man said to him, "I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws. What do I still lack?"

21 Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

22 But when the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he was very rich.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven!

24 Again I say, it is easier for a camel* to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter into the kingdom of God."

(NET Bible®)

[*rope in the Syriac Bible]

Getting a camel (or a rope) through the eye of a needle is pretty much impossible. Maybe the lefties are doing rich Christians a favor when they call for bringing back 90% marginal income tax rates and other wealth transfer schemes. The modern welfare state enforces Christian morality just as the blue laws and sodomy laws of old attempted to enforce Christian standards of morality.

Oh, the irony!

The real question should be: how is it that we have a Christian Right at all? How is it that the party of Tax Cuts for the Rich got to be the party for die-hard Christians?

Well, there is this follow-on to the above quote:

Matthew 19:

25 The disciples were greatly astonished when they heard this and said, "Then who can be saved?"

26 Jesus looked at them and replied, "This is impossible for mere humans, but for God all things are possible."

(NET Bible®)

OK, so it is theoretically possible for rich people to enter the Kingdom, since all things are possible. But this is a pretty weak defense. If we take this passage at face value, then witches, homosexuals, murderers, and even Adolph Hitler can be saved as well.

Methinks Jesus was using a bit of hyperbole with both passages in order to hammer in a point. But just what is the point he was emphasizing? Let’s read a bit further:

Matthew 19:

27 Then Peter said to him, "Look, we have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"

28 Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth: In the age when all things are renewed, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

29 And whoever has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.

30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

(NET Bible®)

At the very least, Jesus made it clear that there are benefits to giving up something in this life for The Cause. The rate of return is huge. As to what The Cause is, look back to Verse 21; Jesus told the man to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor. If rich Christians did enough of that, how much of a welfare state would we need today?

Well, there would be some problems still. If rich Christians sold all their possessions, then there wouldn’t be any rich Christians. Now, how do you take care of the poor? Maybe this is just another example of hyperbole. (And also note that Jesus was offering the rich young man a chance to be one of his disciples, a very special offer!)

There is another problem. Jesus did make a general point of berating the rich, yet the Old Testament repeatedly promised material riches as a divine reward for good behavior. We’ll explore this apparent inconsistency in the next two chapters.