The eye of the needle

The Eye of the Needle

Alison-ChristianJesus said, “It is easier to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” As a younger person I understood that saying literally and superficially. We should not have more than enough money when other people were poor, we should be generous, and having too much money somehow got in the way of our relationship with God. Simple solution: don’t seek wealth but be satisfied with enough.

Lately, I have begun to understand things differently. Somehow wealth and impoverishment go together and a person who is poor is not necessarily impoverished.

We live in the richest third of the world peoples and yet many observers would say that we suffer lives of great impoverishment. The reason for this is our very wealth can create a life style which is deeply unsatisfying. We are spiritually and emotionally malnourished; and, worst of all, our impoverishment is largely self-chosen.

Some wealthy people chose to live in gated communities. By cutting themselves off in this way they feel safe and they can avoid people who are not like them: they can avoid pain. Behind this life style choice is the desire not to see, to nullify and not to be confronted with those things that make them uncomfortable. The result is that, of course, they cut themselves off from life itself and choose instead to exist in a cotton wool ghetto. Their lives, whether they know it or not, are impoverished.

But with the life choices we are able to make many of us do something very similar. We too, want to avoid the discomfort and pain which is part of what life is about and is for our growth and our healing, if only we recognise it. The life style walls we build are just as much about avoidance. Our walls are called “distraction.”

Distraction could be considered a commodity. In the First World we buy distraction in and fill our lives with it. And we are buying more and more. Distraction is the quick fix solution which momentarily fills the void but gives no lasting satisfaction. It masks the pain but does not deal with it. It is the fast food meal that does not nourish the real hunger. From morning until night we chose distraction because we cannot bear the pain of our own emptiness, lack of satisfaction and longing. So we fill our lives with escapism: computers, iPhones, noise, popular entertainment, fantasy holidays, magazines, puzzle books. In our touch screen world everything is on hand all the time to help us to avoid ourselves, our loneliness and our hunger for meaning. Those who live in the Second and Third Worlds do not have such choices. They are poor but they often have stronger communities and oddly more satisfaction in life than we have.

It is hard for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven not because God prevents it happening but because we do so. Wealth has always allowed people to buy into distraction and out of reality. But it is only in daring to become real that true satisfaction can be found.