Can You Be Too Rich for Heaven?
It seems much of the world is in for a slow recovery from the economic malaise of the past few years. What Christians aim to see "fixed" are not the fine points of banking laws, executive salaries, mortgage-backed securities regulations, or bankruptcy protections. Certainly, such changes have their place. Yet the Christian perspective must be far more holistic, pushing beyond corporate and governmental structures to the dispositions of individual people towards wealth and towards the financial, environmental, educational, legal, and social needs of the poor.
Should I buy a new, high-definition TV? Is universal healthcare a right? Should I expand my business? From what manufacturers should I buy my clothing? From the Christian perspective, every aspect of stewardship—time, talents, and money—should carry a concern to restore socio-economic injustice. Fortunately, Christians today not only benefit from the voices of current leaders but also may take advantage of the wisdom of those Christians who in earlier times wrestled with many of these same questions. Early Christianity provides us with a wealth of resources to retrain our minds to think Christianly about wealth, poverty, and the desire to resolve economic disparities.
Case in point: In Mark 10:21 (and the parallel text in Luke 18:22), Jesus told a rich young man that he needed to "sell all that he possessed" in order to be one of his followers. This was as jarring to the early Christian readers as it sounds to us today. Was Jesus suggesting that a person can be too rich for heaven? Early Christians were divided about the question before a consensus emerged around a critique of superfluous wealth.
Renunciation vs. detachment
The natural reading of Mark 10:21 is ...