The aptly named Bob Diamond, Barclays Boss and the UK’s best-paid top banker, was recently asked why he thought it was so hard for a rich banker to enter the kingdom of heaven. According to Robert Peston, Business Editor for the BBC, in his excellent blog, Peston’s Picks – http://bbc.co.uk/robertpeston – the Treasury Select Committee versus Bob Diamond was gripping theatre. According to Peston the best moment was when Diamond was asked by the Labour MP John Mann why he thought it was so hard for a rich banker to enter the kingdom of heaven. Diamond ducked out of giving a direct answer to the question by saying that he was still stuck on why it was harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich banker to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
The reference, of course, is to a saying of Jesus recorded in the synoptic gospels: Truly I tell you, it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven … it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. Parallel versions of this saying appear in Matthew 19 :23,24; Mark 10:24,25, and Luke 18:24,25. The saying was a response to a rich man who had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should keep the commandments, to which the man stated he had done. Jesus responded, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ The rich man, we are told ‘went away sad, because he had great wealth’. He was unwilling to do what Jesus suggested … an attitude that elicited this response from Jesus about rich people and camels, a response that left his disciples astonished.
I sometimes wonder whether we skip over this text saying 'I'm not rich so it doesn't apply to me' when it does mean all of us. Certainly if we enjoy a reasonable standard of living in the UK we are, in world wide terms, rich but I think there is a bit more to it than that. Jesus used this example because he was talking to a rich man but don't we all carry baggage that we need to 'unload' to enter the kingdom of heaven? At an extreme this could be someone poor eaten up by envy of the rich.