I've been teaching from a book called Wasabi Gospel in our Sunday School class. This week's lesson title was "Rich people go straight to hell, do not pass go" and the scripture was from Mark chapter 10 verses 24 and 25. Just in case you don't want to look that up . . ."The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Most of us don't think we are rich. I paid about $13 or $14 for Wasabi Gospel at Cokesbury. Did you know that I paid more for a Sunday School book than people in AT LEAST 16 countries make in a week? I searched around on the internet and found this research from about two years ago - Did you know that assets of just $2,200 per adult place a household in the top half of the world's wealthiest? If you have more than $500,000 in assets (I looked up assets just to verify. Assets are everything of value owned by a person - cars, cameras, tv's, home, vacation home, boats, jet skis), you are part of the richest 1% in the world. That is mind boggling to me.
Back to the scripture. I had always heard that the "eye of the needle" was a gate in ancient Jerusalem and in order for a large camel to pass through, he would have to be relieved of his burdens and get down on his knees and thus rich people have to get rid of their stuff and get on their knees, etc. But I read in three different commentaries that Jesus liked to make jokes to get his point across. Jesus evidently meant a sewing needle (greek word). Imagine a big old lumpy camel trying to get through the eye of a needle.
As I continued reading and lumped myself into that rich category, I became a little agitated. I found this quote on-line, "Rich people are not worried about where their next meal is coming from; they worry about what it will taste like and what the setting will be. Rich people are not concerned about whether they will have shelter and clothing to wear; they are taken up with fashion and style and decor and whether they are living in the right neighborhood or not or whether or not they are wearing the right name brand. The possession of riches shifts a person's concern from the elementary, necessary things to the complex, secondary things." Once again, that makes me fall into that rich category.
So what are we to do? We are rich. We really are. If you are reading this, you are rich. So what are we to do? Ecclesiastes 5:19 says, "Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions and enables him to ENJOY them, to accept his lot and be HAPPY in his work - this is a gift of God." 1 Timothy 6:17 says, "Command those who are rich in the present world (that's us - we are rich, remember?) not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment." DON'T put our HOPE in wealth but in GOD!!
The author of Wasabi Gospel says, "Put your hope in God" is a great 401K plan. Hope in God is a plan that does not depreciate and is never uncertain. The guaranteed return is a life that Jesus gives us."
All we have and all we are comes from God himself. We can never give up anything to God except what we have already received from him.
So, this week my middle-aged mind is whirring round and round as I think about being rich. I've never felt "rich" (in money) before. I grew up in a blue collar home in a small house. Now I compare myself to others who have so much more, so I think that I'm not rich. I do know that I am very rich and very blessed with good friends and a loving family. After studying this lesson, I guess I'm rich monetarily also. Wow - and it is hard for a rich (wo)man to get into heaven . . . like a camel through the eye of a sewing needle. I'm still thinking about this one.
Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for scripture that makes us think and challenges us.