February 14, 2012

Show Me a Wealthy Christian, and I'll Show You a Hypocrite

Eye of the needleAnyone familiar with the Christian bible will know that there are many inconsistencies. We atheists are especially fond of pointing them out. But there are also parts that seem quite clear and where certain messages appear consistently in multiple places.

When I was a Christian, I always considered these examples to be among the most important parts of the bible. I figured that if they showed up repeatedly, someone thought they were worth repeating. This was especially true when more than one of the gospel authors had Jesus saying virtually the same thing. Perhaps this was naive of me, but I considered these particular sayings to be worth additional attention on my part.

Here's a well known example of what I'm talking about:
Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24, NIV).
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25, NIV).
Pretty similar, aren't they? And just in case the message isn't clear to everyone:
Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no their comes near and no moth destroys (Luke 12:33, NIV).
The context of all these quotes involved a wealthy man asking Jesus what he needed to do to get into heaven, and Jesus clearly indicated that hoarding wealth was not the way to heaven.

Based on my reading of the New Testament in the Christian bible, focusing on the words attributed to Jesus, it seems quite impossible for someone to be both wealthy and a follower of Christ at the same time. Am I missing something here?

Even if we set aside the concept of heaven and accept the argument of many conservative Christians that Jesus was not saying it is impossible for the wealthy to reach heaven (just much harder), we still have to face the clear inconsistency between wealth and the teachings attributed to Jesus. One who hoards wealth is simply not behaving in a manner consistent with one of the central teachings attributed to Jesus.