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Reform Magazine | October 19, 2017

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Chapter & verse: Matthew 19: 24

Chapter & verse: Matthew 19: 24

‘If I fear for the rich man’s soul, then I ought to fear for mine’

Not long ago I was saying grace at a very smart dinner in London (like you do) and I was sat next to a very rich man. I didn’t know quite how rich he was until I got home later that night and Googled him. He wasn’t just well off – not just “can afford better holidays than camping” kind of rich – but really, seriously, rich. He was a charming dinner table companion, the talk was far from small and I really liked him. On the way home back to Cambridge, I thought of what Jesus’ said about a rich man, a camel and the eye of the needle, and I hoped that all things might indeed be possible with God.

A few years ago I went to a recording of QI. (Please don’t think I lead a glamorous life – I’m drawing on a few highlights here!) This saying of Jesus came up and various comedians present suggested some of the old chestnut excuses and special pleadings: “The eye of the needle might have referred to a small gate in Jerusalem that required you to unload your camel before you could get through it,” or: “It was only a verse aimed at one particular rich man not at all of them,” or: “It’s the love of money that’s the problem, not the money per se,” or even: “Jesus probably never said this anyway” and so on. Stephen Fry then said that he believed that Jesus did actually say it, and that it was quite plain, literal and straightforward. Jesus really did mean to say that it is very hard indeed for a rich person to get into the Kingdom of God. And he clearly respected him for it. The studio actually fell, for a moment, into an awed silence. …

Susan Durber is principal of Westminster College in Cambridge – a resource centre for learning within the United Reformed Church. From September, she will be theology coordinator for Christian Aid

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This is an extract from the July/August 2013 edition of  Reform.

Read more articles by Susan Durber

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