Wealth and Catholic teaching

Hi everyone,

Maybe you could help me with an answer to my question about money and our faith.
I would like to receive a comment on the following quote from the Bible:
“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”

I have submitted this question to a numer of Catholic Q and A’s and forums but never received an answer. Money and Christianity is a subject that is avoided in the free market capitalist world.
To me every possible interpretation of the quote is simple: rich people won’t go to heaven. Beacause they have even less chances to get there than the camel to pass through the eye of a needle. Less than zero.

How can we reconcile that with capitalism, which is based on accumulation of wealth? Why doesn’t the Church tell rich people and those who dovete their lives to money making that their souls are in danger?
I hope your answer will not be “we should not take the Bible literally”. Because than we could reject and deny everything the Bible says by not interpreting it “literally”. I understand some unclear passages of the Bible may need to be interpreted by theologians, but the above passage seems to be clear. Moreover, this theme appears in the Bible over and over again. And everywhere Jesus’ attitude towards wealth and money is the same: don’t waste your time on getting rich, distribute your wealth to the poor, don’t accumulate wealth, blessed are the poor; you can’t serve God and Mammon and the same time. The attitude is absolutely clear. How come the Catholic Church is silent about that? Is it just afraid to anger rich donators? I hope not.
And, yes, I know the Catholic Church doesn’t consider being rich bad, does not consider accumulation of wealth evil. I know that. My question, is WHY? Why is its teaching not in line with the clear command in the Bible

Thanx, Vytas

[quote=vytautas]Hi everyone,

Maybe you could help me with an answer to my question about money and our faith.
I would like to receive a comment on the following quote from the Bible:
“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”

[/quote]

After many years thinking that it was a two humped camel, I was told Kamel, is a rope.
But Jesus confronted this head on with the young rich man in the Bible, and the reason for the quote, and the young man walked away because he couldn’t comply.
Jesus rejected this world, or rather the world rejected Him, and He also said store up your treasures in Heaven.
I can’t speak for the rich, because I’m not, I’m like the lily in the field. :wink:
Personally I couldn’t be happy with millions stored up in a bank while people starve, but that’s just me and others will have to reconcile that with their own conscience, or maybe take heed from the story about Lazarus and the rich King.

The lesson is that rich people have many more resources, hence living the life of Christ, they should be amply giving alms and helping their fellow man. Also, some times it’s a question of how their riches were acquired - through sin, or not?

There is nothing inherently bad about being rich if no sins were committed to get that way. God wants us to work hard, to use the gifts He gave us, to have meaningful accomplishments - and that may bring riches. But there is sure a lot that can be done to help others less fortunate if one is in that situation.

In the Bible verse, Jesus addresses the fact that many rich people then (and now?) horded their money, gained it through very bad sins against their fellow man, and were also greedy and always wanted more. These are clearly grave sins.

This is the question of this passage in the bible, who is your god? Is your G-d the living G-d or is your god money. Joseph of Arimatha was a wealthy man but was still a follower of Jesus.
The eye of a needle is a gate into the Jerusalem which is smaller than the main gate. A camel would have to crawl on it’s knee’s to get into the city.
Money is not evil it is not good it is amoral. It is what you think about it and how you use it.
Your thinking show that you have been well indoctrinated into the Socialist mindset. JPII has stated that Socialism and Catholicism are incompatible.
The free market system is a creation of the Catholic Church.

to awalt:

"There is nothing inherently bad about being rich if no sins were committed to get that way. "

Yes, perhpas that’s true, but I think maybe Jesus warns us with this quote, that it is impossible to get rich without sinning (then and now)? It’s like saying there’s nothing wrong with getting into water unless you get wet:)
Moreover, I guess apart from inheriting it’s impossible to get rich without going after money, without wanting it very much, without setting yourself goals to make a lot of money, without directing all your effors towards that. All those books by billionaires about how to get rich say that: “you must desire to get rich and do everything you can to get rich”.
And that’s serving mammon, isn’t it?
Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus say something like that: it’s fine to be rich, fine to accumulate wealth, as long as you do it in a proper way and give charity and pay you employees well. nothing like that.

[quote=vytautas] “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”

[/quote]

Read the next verses: "And when they had heard this, the disciples wondered much, saying: ‘Who then can be saved?’ And Jesus beholding, said to them: ‘With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible.’ "

I feel that Jesus’ teaching in this points to the concept of purgatory. God can save whom He chooses, but we won’t all be “ready” for heaven. Rich people “can’t take it with them” – they have to be purified of all the pride of earthly wealth, before they enter the heavenly kingdom.

I agree that riches are *very * problematic. But with God all things are possible.

The rich young man may be in heaven now, but he had to face the shame that he met Jesus, and rejected Him. What an awful feeling.

to MommaKat
"The eye of a needle is a gate into the Jerusalem which is smaller than the main gate. A camel would have to crawl on it’s knee’s to get into the city. "

Now, where does that come from?:slight_smile: Who told you that?
I have read this passage in several languages, and nowhere you could get the idea that it is some gate in jerusalem. The eye of a needle is the eye of a needle.

Besides, as I said, Jesus’ attitude on wealth in the Bible is very clear from many passages. The fact that Catholic church created capitalism as you said, does not deny what Jesus says.

I disagree with that - in the Bible when the rich man came to Jesus and said what else he should do, Jesus did not say He was a sinner or anything - he said give away your possessions and come with me. When the man refused and went away, THAT was the problem and THAT was when Jesus was saddened that the man was living the wrong life.

To say that no one who is “rich” (and what is your definition of that) did it without sinning is true, as we are all sinners, and we are all not to judge, But there is nothing inherently wrong with having more money than what someone else thinks is a definition of rich. It is not a sin, it is not breaking a commandment, it is not in violation of the CCC – the question of salvation is based on how you life your life given what you did with your life per the Word.

Is the guy who invented Google inherently doomed? How about Yahoo? How about the guy that invented Velcro? How about the guy that invented Dominos Pizza, who has since become very religious but not given all his money away?

I would humbly suggest if you discussed this issue with a priest and it applied to you, they would not focus on the fact that you were rich, but they would focus on how you are and should live your life, if you asked for counsel. Even in the Bible rich people think they are powerful, set the rules, and answer to no one - issues like that are what Jesus was going after.

to awalt:
yes, I don’t think priests ask you how much you earn at confession. you are right about that. And I don’t think God will look at our bank aacount or other property when we die to decide whether we go to hell or heaven. But I think that getting rich has a lot to do with how you lead your life.Because the very desire for money and the ways you get it can be harmful to you soul, because you may have to sin in the process, plus Mammon may replace God in your heart.

I don’t know much about the guy from Google and other people you mention, but in my country the people who are rich, the ones who have been sucessfull in business usually do at least one, but often several of the following things: tax evasion, bribery, unofficial pay to employees, misleading advertising, dishonest competing in public procurement, to name but a very few. I don’t mean to say all sucessful businessmen here do that. And I’m not judging. I’m not judging anyone, I’m not a poor man myself.
But we cannot close our eyes at the passages in the Bible on wealth, just because our current system is based on wealth accumulation and we feel sort of uncofortable with it.
I don’t know why Jesus said rich people won’t go to heaven, but he said that, unless my interpretation of the quote in question is completely wrong.

by the way,
to the guy that said John Paul II said that Christianity and Socialism were incompatible:
I doubt JP II ever said that. Really doubt it. Unless you could provide a quote. I would be thankfull.
What JP II criticised was the opressive pseudo–socialist system in eastern Europe, esp. in former Soviet Union, or Soviet-occupied countries. That was especially related with religious opression and human rights.
I doubt if JP II ever condemned the ideals of social justice and solidarity.
Whereas, on numerous occassions he critisized greed-driven lifestyle, materialism and social unjustice.
Obviously he did not side with any ideology. A pope is not a politician , after all.

[quote=vytautas]to awalt:

"There is nothing inherently bad about being rich if no sins were committed to get that way. "

Yes, perhpas that’s true, but I think maybe Jesus warns us with this quote, that it is impossible to get rich without sinning (then and now)? It’s like saying there’s nothing wrong with getting into water unless you get wet
[/quote]

There is an excellent book called “The Millionaire Next Door” which is a detailed study of the rich in America. The authors found the average millionaire is:

[list]
*]Married and never divorced.
*]Living in the same house they bought early in the marriage.
*]He most likely drives a Ford F150 pickup – a work truck
*]He probably wears a blue or khaki shirt with his name above the pocket.
[/list]
In other words, the average millionaire is a modest, decent, hardworking person who scrimped and saved all his life, invested his savings in his business, and then worked long, hard hours to make the business a go. He has created jobs for other people and is a major asset to his community.

What’s sinfun about that?

Perhaps the sin is envy – and he isn’t the one committing it.http://forums.catholic.com/images/icons/icon12.gif

Vytautas,

I agree with your comments n the Pope by the way - I read his biography, you are right on.

As for the “rich” discussion, I think we agree on the important issues here. The fact that your experience makes you believe that no one who became rich did so living the life of Christ, I believe it’s possible that people did so. When looking at all the rich people ever, we could probably both agree our opinions are conjecture as we couldn’t possibly know. So be it, it is what it is then.

But – we both agree that what matters is whether you live the life Christ wants of us or not.

[quote=awalt]Vytautas,

I agree with your comments n the Pope by the way - I read his biography, you are right on.

As for the “rich” discussion, I think we agree on the important issues here. The fact that your experience makes you believe that no one who became rich did so living the life of Christ, I believe it’s possible that people did so. When looking at all the rich people ever, we could probably both agree our opinions are conjecture as we couldn’t possibly know. So be it, it is what it is then.
[/quote]

Despite what readers of “People Magazine” believe, the average rich person does not do drugs, get drunk, or divorced. The average American millionaire is a small businessman who made it on his own, and who is a stable husband and father.

In fact, in many ways, he resembles Saint Joseph.

My :twocents:

Isidore said:
In this fleeting life the rich do not have the satisfaction of permanently enjoying their power, their fame, or their money. Suddenly death carries them off, the abyss swallows them up and they disappear, condemned to eternal torments.

Greed makes the rich haughty. It does not happen because of their riches, but because of their free choice.
Evil does not consist in things, but in the use we make of them.

Those who spend their riches on beneficial objects are making good use of good things. The same good things are being badly used by those who plan to multiply their wealth or who only do good to their neighbors for reputations sake. By Defensor Grammaticus
**
I have reached the point of what I consider independent wealth. My standards maybe different than someone elses but I am happy… I recently acquired a part-time job of cooking for people at a Catholic retreat house. The religious order I work for insists that I be paid ( not a whole lot of money) but I don’t really need the money. I often times take my earnings and pour it into the retreat house I work at. I think this is a good live example of what Defensor Grammaticus is talking about. There are people I know ( and probably you know ) who honestly work hard…very hard for money. They offer millions of dollars to charities. There is nothing wrong with honest labor and charitable money donations. Remember too that there are some people who are simply better workers…they are smart…efficient…tireless hardworkers. So people just don’t have those qualities…look around.
**

to vern humphrey:

Ok, I’m glad US businessmen are so virtuous, to resemble even the Saints. I only wonder why so many saints CHOSE the life of poverty, instead of doing business.

Anyway, I believe what you say, in fact these people could be rather decent. I must admitt we come from different countries, thus different societies. A typical businessman in your country is problbly different than a typical businessman in mine.

Though I had a little different idea of an American businessman. Perhaps I’'ve watched too much MTV about celebrities and the way they spend money, read too much of books like The Great Gatsby, hear too much about Enron and similiar stories, and about executives getting paid annual salaries of hundreds of millions while their companies are in poor conditions, about military industry companies profiting from war etc. etc… But you are an American, you know better. If you say they are virtuous, I believe you. One thing though, I have lived in the US, and you must believe - there is no other country in the world with so much luxury and abundance. And I don’t believe all that belongs to the poor.

Anyway, you must admitt the world doesn’t end with the US border. I suggest you explore how people have made billions in Russia, Colombia, or Africa. The Bible applies to the whole world.

Another thing, I never accused rich people of any particular sinfulness as opposed to the poor. I just gave you a quote from the Bible. Jesus’ words were straight and unambiguous.

And remember what Jesus said to a young man who was rich yet very virtuous and asked Jesus what else he had to do. Jesus said he had to give away his riches. He didn’t say invest it or use it wisely. He didn’t tell people: get rich, but do not sin. He said, blessed are the poor.

Once again, no matter how wisely we use the money, how wisely we invest, how virtuous we are - we can serve either God or money. That is Jesus’ message as I understand it.

That was their calling. That doesn’t make me any less for choosing to work (even the servile task of cooking for retreatants) when I don’t need the money.

When Jesus speaks in the Bible about money, it’s never the issue HOW you’ve made it. He does not care. Nor does he care how you spend it. he makes no distinctions between riches that earned with hard honest work and those which were accumulated in illicit ways. He says, give it away. He says, you’re poor? Don’t worry about it. HOW is not the the issue here.

The issue is, where is you heart and your mind? Do you love money, and devote you life to making it, or do you love God and store up you riches in Heaven. The issue is the attachment to money, to luxury, to comfortable lifestyle. It’s all about what are your ideals, not how you reach them.

It’s wrong to say, well, my goal is to get rich, but as long as don’t kill and steal and as long as I’m a nice guy, I’m fine. This is not what Christianity is about. All that was before Cristianity. Jesus’ teaching was about shifting the focus on your attention on different things, about setting you free from the bondage of materialism.

[quote=vytautas]to vern humphrey:

Ok, I’m glad US businessmen are so virtuous, to resemble even the Saints. I only wonder why so many saints CHOSE the life of poverty, instead of doing business.
[/quote]

Do you know everyone who is in heaven? And do you have their financial statements?

[quote=vytautas]Anyway, I believe what you say, in fact these people could be rather decent. I must admitt we come from different countries, thus different societies. A typical businessman in your country is problbly different than a typical businessman in mine.
[/quote]

We are by and large a country of self-made men and women.

[quote=vytautas]Though I had a little different idea of an American businessman. Perhaps I’'ve watched too much MTV about celebrities and the way they spend money, read too much of books like The Great Gatsby,
[/quote]

I believe I said something like “Despite what readers of “People Magazine” believe” reality is somewhat different.

Despite what readers of “People Magazine” believehear too much about Enron and similiar stories, and about executives getting paid annual salaries of hundreds of millions while their companies are in poor conditions, about military industry companies profiting from war etc. etc… But you are an American, you know better. If you say they are virtuous, I believe you. One thing though, I have lived in the US, and you must believe - there is no other country in the world with so much luxury and abundance. And I don’t believe all that belongs to the poor.

I sometimes teach a college level class. I ask my students to imagine they are on the same spot, 15,000 years in the past. And then to imagine they have met a person who lives in that era.

Then I ask them to empty their pockets and purses – and they find they are incredibly wealthy – in the eyes of that person who lived 15,000 years ago. They have things like steel pocket knives, cigarette lighters, mirrors, and so on.

Does that make them all sinners?

[quote=vytautas] Anyway, you must admitt the world doesn’t end with the US border. I suggest you explore how people have made billions in Russia, Colombia, or Africa. The Bible applies to the whole world.
[/quote]

I have lived in many foreign countries – Peru, Egypt, Viet Nam, Korea, and Singapore. I have found that brutal, corrupt dictatorships are the problem, not hard-working entrepreneurs.

[quote=vytautas] Another thing, I never accused rich people of any particular sinfulness as opposed to the poor. I just gave you a quote from the Bible. Jesus’ words were straight and unambiguous.
[/quote]

It is not Jesus’ words, but your interpretation of them that I question. You chose to equate rich with sinful.

[quote=vytautas]And remember what Jesus said to a young man who was rich yet very virtuous and asked Jesus what else he had to do. Jesus said he had to give away his riches. He didn’t say invest it or use it wisely. He didn’t tell people: get rich, but do not sin. He said, blessed are the poor.
[/quote]

And Jesus didn’t live in a free market economy.

[quote=vytautas]Once again, no matter how wisely we use the money, how wisely we invest, how virtuous we are - we can serve either God or money. That is Jesus’ message as I understand it.
[/quote]

I suggest that the real sinners are not the hard-working people who create jobs for others, but the less hard-working people who envy them.

to vern humphrey:

I understand from your tone you are suggesting that I envy rich people. Well, believe me I don’t. I used to in childhood, but not any more.

I also understand your idea that Jesus’ teachings do not apply in the free market economy. Well, they do.

No wonder, you never respond with the words from the Bible, and never say anything about the QUOTE I gave you in my first message.

About the dictatorships, they are precisely the result of greed for money and power.

About sin, i didn;t mention sin in my first message at all. I just gave you a quote from the Bible. And in one of my messages, I said I don’t consider rich people greater sinners as opposed to rich people. I refuse to discuss all this from the standpoint of sin.

In fact, ALL of us are sinners., It’s sad to see you believe business people are an exception.

:yup: Yup

Wegmans Tops Fortune’s Best-Employer List
ROCHESTER, N.Y. Jan 10, 2005 — Wegmans Food Markets, a grocery chain whose motto is “employees first, customers second,” topped Fortune’s eighth annual list of the best 100 companies to work for in America, the magazine said Monday.

There is a thread here on CA Forums about this Food Chain
Have you ever been to Wegmans?

The founders of this food chain are wealthy and hardworking Cradle Catholics. Not only have they been on Fortune’s Best-Employer list but they donate $$$$$ to the Church and Catholic schools and many other needy.

How could Danny Wegman be wrong for being the hard-working business man that he is ???..look at all he does for so many people…including me…the quality of life in my home is better because of the great products he offers in his stores.

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