Woe Unto the Rich

Blessed are you poor for yours is the kingdom of God.  But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation.

I picked the wrong religion.  Or at least the wrong denomination.  Or whatever.  The Catholic Church does not have enough filters and valves on the Palat-O-Meter® to make these verses disappear.  He says, elsewhere, that it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  But, but, we say, with God all things are possible.  And sometimes we allow ourselves to let the fact of God’s omnipotence strike these warnings to the rich to the heart.  Gut them of their Fear Factor.  But even granting the fact that, obviously God can do anything he pleases, these terrifying statements ought nevertheless to make us pause.  Our relationship to money speaks volumes about our relationship to God.  For either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  And God help us if we hate him.

But, but, we say, I’m really not rich.  I mean, those guys over there, they’re rich!  Look at that car.  And house.  And their kids go to Regina Luminis Academy.  It may be true that we are decidely middle class when it comes to our particular sector of the universe.  We live on the Main Line, for crying out loud.  And that’s pretty much all we have money for.  But in the context of the world, I think it is safe to say that we are among the rich.  And the rich man will fade away in the midst of his pursuits, like the flower of the grass he will pass away

This is all pretty one-sides, and I am sure that opposing texts can be culled from Scripture, but they are much harder to think of, aren’t they?  That Paul had some wealthy patronesses comes to mind.  I think I’m not making that up.  But either way, the previously quoted texts are there to make us uncomfortable.  That is the very least of their function.  So I will try to not dilute them down to mere gruel.  I have indeed become quite attached to my goods.  One might say, indeed, that I love them.  Does that mean I hate God?  But, he says, one thing you still lack…sell all…distribute to the poor…  And he became sad, for he was very rich.

On a positive note,  I became aware that, when I (and by extension the boys) say “woe” when something unexpected happens, like when I drop something, I think that the root of that must be “woe unto me, for I hath droppeth this thingeth”.  It’s funny how “woe” is one of E’s first and one of S’s most used words.

Also, I will say that most of my history with the first woe verse is having fun with people who don’t know it exists.  “Well, Jesus said, Blessed are the poor and woe to the rich.”  Puzzlement gives way to an angry, “No, he said blessed are the poor IN SPIRIT!!!”  “Well, yes, he did say that also, but he also said, Blessed are the poor.”  You can watch them internally doing the math, but it doesn’t compute.  Anyway, if THIS is my experience with this verse, you can tell that I haven’t interiorized all that much of it yet.

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~ by Rob on January 14, 2010.

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