When Jesus told his disciples that it was as harder for a rich person to enter the kingdom than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, they were shocked and confused. Like many today they assumed that success and wealth in life was a sign of God’s favour just as poverty or defeat in life’s struggles are punishment or maybe just a sign you weren’t ready yet.
How much do you need to have to be ‘rich? The difficulty of answering that question means we have a way of wriggling away from the truth of what Jesus says. There are rising numbers of working families in the UK at present who cannot keep their children warm at night because of energy costs and have to supplement their food from charitable food banks. These are not rich but there are those in Ethiopia who are dying of hunger. Vladimir Putin is reported to be personally richer than anyone else on earth, with an estimated 200 billion dollars, and anyway he is obviously rich. But there are those in between, doing their annual budgets carefully to see if they can afford to educate their children or afford a holiday.
The simple definition of rich in the sense Jesus is using might be: to have much very more than you could ever need but not sharing nearly as much as you could. This is the curse of wealth. The more you have, the more you fear to lose, the more possessive you become and so the more isolated. Those twisted mental states keep you battering on the door of the kingdom, which is one thing, like love, that money can’t buy. What do you do if you are rich in this depressing sense and yet would also like to be friends with God or even with Jesus? The national Russian Orthodox church which Putin has bought has given unqualified support to the invasion of Ukraine. God and even Jesus, it seems, can be bought - but only as look-alikes.
How to have enough and avoid the curse of being rich? Philanthropy helps but it can also be a clever tool of the rich. The only real way to handle money is to invest heavily every day in poverty of spirit. It is a risky investment because it will turn into authentic wealth in the knowledge of God. And what then with your mansions and super-yachts?
This means that every ruse and deception your ego uses to justify its double-vision is exposed. You are left coping with the discovery that to have everything you have to let go of absolutely everything. Whether this happens suddenly, as in a crisis, or gradually over thirty years of learning to meditate, the discovery of reality is the same.

Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022