The liturgy for this week in my tradition includes the Gospel of Mark, the 10th chapter, starting with the 17th verse. It's about a rich young man who follows all the laws, but Jesus said, "You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." The young man was NOT happy.
Then Jesus said, at verse 25, "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 God." Similar scripture can be found in Matthew 19:24 and Luke 18:25.
A couple thoughts on this: There are lots of folks who seem to think that what is meant by the eye of the needle is a small gate or a rope, thus difficult but not impossible to achieve. I don't buy it and this site explains it well as any.
Also, it's clear that most of the poorest Westerners are much better off than the poor in developing countries. Does this lead some in the United States, e.g., to decide that the poor in their own country are not worthy of compassion? When I type the word "underserved" in Blogger and in other word processing formats, the spell check wanted to know if I really meant "undeserved".
Mostly, though, I was thinking of last week's PARADE magazine survey of How Spiritual Are We?, we being Americans. In the print version, the visual representatives of faith leadership were were Rick Warren and Joel Osteen. Rick Warren is problematic for all sorts of reasons, including his apparent homophobia.
But I want to concentrate on Joel Osteen, who is engaged in what's commonly referred to as the "prosperity gospel." Essentially, if you are positive, then God is going to give you all of the goodies of this world. To my ears, it's just a more polished version of the late Rev. Ike, who would say, "Why have that pie in the sky, when you can have it NOW, with ice cream on the top." I find myself agreeing uncomfortably with some evangelicals (as the term is commonly understood) when I suggest that Osteen's teachings are heretical to Biblical teachings. I watched him two years ago on 60 Minutes, and I'm more inclined to believe so after the program than I did before it, even though the interview was designed to answer his critics.
"Love of money is the root of all evil", the Bible says. Even when preached by a reputed man of God.
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