One of the most delightful scenes in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” begins with Tevye talking to God. He says “Lord you made many, many poor people and I realise it’s no shame to be poor but it’s not a great honour either. What would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune”. Then he begins to sing his dream of how life would be “If I were a rich man”, the house he would build, the clothes he would wear and the respect he would have in the community. There are times when all of us dream the same dream. We have thought about how nice it would be never to worry about paying the bills. It is a lovely dream, but we should keep in mind that money has its own category of problems.
In this weekend’s Gospel reading Jesus talked about the dangers of prosperity. He said “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God”. Most of us do not think of ourselves as being rich, but most of us would like to be. We live in a culture that is obsessed with the material side of life. The word success has come to mean only one thing – MONEY. It would of course be foolish to under-rate the importance of the economic side of life. Money is not simply money. Money is food on table and a roof over our head. It is education for children, it is help for those we love in time of sickness, it is old age relieved from the prospect of poverty. It would be foolish to minimise the importance of life’s economic support.
Prosperity can keep us from seeing ourselves as we really are. It can convince us that we are a special breed, deserving special consideration, when in reality we are nothing more than little people who just happen to have a little money. Prosperity can prevent us from facing the truth about ourselves. The person who has plenty finds it difficult to understand the problems of people who have virtually nothing.
Jesus knew what he was talking about. “How hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God”, especially for the prosperous. “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle”. This does not mean that prosperity is not allowed in God’s Kingdom, it simply means that it is difficult to reconcile the two. Jesus said “For man it is impossible, but not for God”. That is how difficult it is, we can never do it without God’s help. Money is a powerful thing but it can block the door of God’s Kingdom. When money is earned honestly and used unselfishly, it can enrich the lives of those who have it and bless the lives of those who are served by it.