The Lord said: “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) Does this mean that all the rich cannot enter the kingdom?
No, for some rich people are righteous and saintly.
The Lord made this statement as a comment on the conduct of the rich young man whose riches hindered him from following the Lord. He went away grieved for he had great possessions.
The Lord did not say that the entrance of the rich into the kingdom was impossible but He said it was hard. He did not mention all the rich but He said: “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).
Therefore, there is a specific shortcoming, which is the dependence on money not on God. This shortcoming then develops from depending on money, to the love of money and its worship, to being a competitor against God. The Lord said “No one can serve two masters.. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).
Those who allow money to compete with God in their hearts will find it difficult to enter the kingdom.
This is exactly what happened with this young rich man. He could observe all the commandments from his youth, except his love for money, for it was indispensable to him.
There is also another flaw that can prevent the rich from entering the kingdom and that is the stinginess in spending money and consequently the cruelty of the heart toward the poor.
An example for this is the rich man who lived at the time of Lazarus the beggar who desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. The rich man did not have any pity toward this beggar, for in his cruelty of heart, he left the dogs to lick his sores. (Luke 16:19-21).
In spite of all that the rich can be saved and enter into the kingdom.
The rich that owns the money and does not allow the money to own him. He owns the money, but does not allow the love of money to enter his heart to prevent him to love God and the neighbour. He spends his money in charitable acts.
The Bible gives us examples for saintly rich people like Job the Righteous…
Job was the richest man in the east in his days, and the Bible gives us a detailed account of his wealth before his trial (Job 1:2 & 3) and after (Job 42:12). The Lord Himself testified for Job saying: “There is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (Job 1:8). He gave to the poor, he was as father to them, and he caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy, he was eyes to the blind, and he was feet to the lame. He delivered the poor who cried out and he who had no helper. (Job 29:12-16).
The Lord blessed Job’s wealth after the tribulation and doubled it.
For the wealth in his hand was a tool for the good and also for the building of the kingdom.
Also the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, were very rich in their times. Abraham was like a king who could defeat four kings, and was received by kings upon his return from the battle (Gen. 14). He was generous and had great love for God and for people. In the other world, Abraham had a great gulf fixed between him and the rich man in the Lazarus parable (Luke 16:26). This scene gives us the difference between two rich people, one in bliss, and the other in torment.
The gospel gives us another example of a holy rich man as Abraham, that is, Joseph from Arimathea.
St. Joseph of Arimathea was worthy to take the body of Jesus to wrap and bury it in his new tomb. It was said about him that he was a rich man (Matt. 27:57) and in spite of that he was waiting for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43). The Gospel of St. Luke said about him that he was “A council member, a good and just man.” (Luke 23:50) Joseph of Arimathea was one of the rich men who entered the kingdom.
We should also mention the righteous rich people who lived during the apostolic age.
The Book of Acts says about them: ” Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. (Acts 4:34-35). An example of these people was Joseph who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (Acts 4:36-37). He was the one that the Holy Spirit chose to serve with St. Paul (Acts 13:2).
History also gives us other examples of holy rich people who entered the kingdom of God.
St. Melania, who was very rich, spent much of her money on monasteries and on building churches. She then chose the monastic life after she was widowed.
St. Paula, who sponsored St. Jerome and his monastic life, built a monastery and a convent in Palestine. She became the abbess of that convent after her widowhood. Her daughter “Yustokhiom” became the superior after her departure.
Another example for these righteous rich people is “Ibrahim El-Gouhary” who spent his money on maintaining churches, monks, monasteries and the construction of holy places.
Wealth is not a hindrance toward the kingdom, but the hindrance is the heart…
The problem is: that the heart surrenders to the love of wealth, and it becomes a burden to give even the tithes and gather money without a certain goal in mind, and money becomes an idol that he worships, which becomes a hindrance to the love of God.
The rich man who uses his money in charitable acts in sacrificial love is not the rich man that our Lord Jesus Christ described.
A reference to this subject is a book written by St. Clement of Alexandria. He was the dean of the school of Alexandria who preceded Origen. The name of the book is “The rich man who can be saved”. This book has been translated by father Mousa Wahba, and is recommended for reading.