What Jesus said about the dificulty of rich people getting into heaven cannot be taken literally. Other place in the Bible see living in poverty as equally unhealthy for us.

Tuesday, 8/16/11

Jesus said that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom.  A popular explanation of that tells us that one of Jerusalem’s many gates was known as the Eye of the Needle, and travelers on camels usually avoided it. The trouble with that explanation is that there was never such a gate.

People who demand that every Bible saying must be taken as factual distort Our Lord’s way of speaking to suit their own narrow views. The fact is that Jesus used exaggerations to get his point across. He said “If your right eye scandalizes you, pluck it out.” If he wanted us to take that literally we would all be blind from puberty on.

Elsewhere  the Bible is not as hard on riches.  Proverbs 30:9 sensibly says, “Let me be neither rich nor poor.” It goes on to say that if I am rich I might feel I have no need for God, and if I am poor I would resort to stealing. In these days with ten percent unemployment, rather than see his children starve a man must resort to stealing.

When Jesus sent his disciples out to preach he told them to take along no money or provisions. We mistake his purpose if we think he was extolling a state of poverty. What he wanted his disciples to do was to become good mixers, eating and drinking with people who would have them.

I like Bernard Malamud’s story about the homeless guy who like St. Francis, imagined himself to be a knight in the service of Lady Poverty. The guy at the lunch counter whom the homeless guy was boring with his Lady-Poverty-talk, said, “Listen, buddy, poverty aint no lovely lady. Poverty is a dirty business.”

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