Money seems to be everywhere these days. Whether we’re talking about the net worth of Presidential Candidates, the portion of the BP Settlement that will actually makes it way to the Gulf Coast, reading James in the real-life version of Draughting Theology or studying the lessons for Sunday, it seems like we just can’t get away from money. In all of these conversations, however, I’ve noticed a theme: rich is always at least one tax bracket above us.
Think about your reaction to the story of the rich, young man from Mark’s Gospel. Don’t most of us hear Jesus say, “It would be easier to put a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” and think, “well thank God I’m not rich”? Whether we are on a fixed income with Social Security, make minimum wage, or pull in 30, 60, or even 100 thousand dollars a year, the American economy has made it possible for us to always envision ourselves as poor. I mean, I can’t buy that 70″ 4K TV, so I must be on the south side of rich. Right?!?
There’s a website called the Global Rich List, where you can enter your income or net worth to see where it ranks on a global scale. The average Social Security check is about $1,180 a month. If that was a retiree’s only income, it would put them in the top 10% of wage earners in the world. A minimum wage job at McDonald’s places you among the top 7%. A laborer making $15 an hour, is just outside the top 1%. Me? My $60,000 stipend, not counting health insurance and pension, puts me in the top 0.20% of wage earners.
Rich is a relative term, but to always put it one or more steps above our pay grade is to act in the same way as the rich young man. In this story, Jesus invites the man (and by extension, I fear, us) to find solidarity with the poor (another relative term) by entering into relationship with them. He doesn’t ask the man to write a check to his favorite charity, but to get down and dirty with the down and out. Truth be told, I think he wants the same from us: to roll up our sleeves and enter into the depths of poverty with those who have no choice but to be there. It seems that’s where the kingdom of God can be found.