Why did Jesus target the rich?

| Father Terry Beeson | October 10, 2018 | 0 Comments
Greedy hands grabing gold coins


October is usually when I preach about stewardship. So, the last thing I want to hear from Jesus is, “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 heaven.”

Groan. How do I spin this? After all, Jesus is biting the hand that is on the trigger of the oil gun that greases the wheels of ministry.

Some preachers may look at it as an opportunity to have greater dividends in their stewardship. Some may try to placate the rich by showing how it is possible for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Trust me folks, Jesus was speaking hyperbole. The needle in question is a sewing needle. It is Jesus’ attempt at humor, demonstrating absurdity by being absurd. Jesus is the perfect human being, so why would humor not be a part of his repertoire?

The real question is, “Why did Jesus target the rich?” After all, it was the common thought that if one was rich, that meant they somehow had God’s favor by being blessed with wealth. The disciples were puzzled (the text says “exceedingly astonished”). They ask, “Then who can be saved?” — meaning, “If the ones who have received God’s abundant blessings cannot be saved, who can?” The key here is in Jesus’ response: “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

This Gospel passage for Oct. 14 speaks to the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Who are the poor? They are folks who have absolutely nothing, and they are dependent on others’ generosity for their survival. If we are to be poor in spirit — no matter if we are rich, poor or somewhere in between — we must have the mindset that our very being is dependent on God. The more we depend on earthly things, the less poor in spirit we become. The more we become poor in spirit, the more we open ourselves to God’s will, ultimately being open for all things that are possible for God.

The rich young man young walked away sad. He had many possessions. Jesus challenged him in the way he needed to be challenged. The rich young man let his possessions rule his heart. His earthly ways prevented him from trusting Jesus that there will be treasure in heaven. Being rich is an easy target in this sense, for Jesus points out what was holding him back.

The question for all of us is not necessarily “should I sell all I have and give it to Father Terry’s stewardship campaign?” That would be an amazing gesture of trust in God, and as much as it would help fatten up the parish funds, that is not the point. After all, Jesus dined with the short, rich tax collector Zacchaeus, and did he give him that instruction? The question for all of us is, what is holding me back from being a true disciple of Christ? Is it possessions? Is it status? Is it putting earthly things on a higher priority than who I am as a Catholic? What earthly desires are taking me off the path of Christ? How can I surrender my will for the will of God?

Let us pray that we have the wisdom and courage to be open to the will of God and surrender to it.

Father Beeson is pastor of St. Pius V in Cannon Falls and St. Joseph in Miesville.

Sunday, Oct. 14
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Category: Sunday Scriptures