I had coffee last week with my friend Greg, and, as always, we had some great conversations about church, life, and the meaning of basically everything.
In the Christian Bible, there’s a story about a rich young man who, one day, approached Jesus, wanting the inside track to the Kingdom. Jesus responds by reciting a bunch of commandments to follow, and when the young man says he already does all those things, Jesus tells him that he has one more thing to do: go sell his stuff and give it to the poor. The man was rich; he couldn’t do it. It’s in this context where Jesus introduces that timeless sticky idea we’ve all heard about a camel trying to squeeze through a needle’s eye, in reference to how difficult it will be for the wealthy to actually find his Kingdom.
If you grew up in church, you’ve probably heard this story a million times (I know I have). And outside of painting a pretty cool picture in my head — “As hard as that big ‘ol camel tries to suck in his camel-fat, he can never fit! Haha!” — I never take too much away from it, honestly.
But today, Greg turned me into the rich young man.
I typically don’t think of myself as rich. I look around and notice the wealth of the world, and, honestly, I don’t see me. I see a lot of other people, and strangely (or not), they’re all probably the same people you see when you think “rich.” But the fact is (and you probably already know where I’m going with this) that compared with the rest of the world, I’m pretty stinkin’ wealthy.
Take a look at this clip from Rob Bell’s NOOMA entitled “Rich” (if nothing else, watch the first 17 seconds):
The fact is, I think I often don’t value truth very much.
I make comparisons all the time, but only when they’re in my favor. I compare UP when it benefits me (“I’m nowhere near as wealthy as Mr. Gates!”) and then compare DOWN when that works better (“I’m giving a full 10% of my income to my favorite charity. I’ll bet they don’t even give at all!”). But this is ignoring the whole truth; I’m disregarding most of the facts.
Once in awhile, I think it’s good to compare in the direction I’d rather not — UP to, say, a Mother Teresa. Or DOWN to kids in Rwanda. Might be good for me.
Otherwise I start to look at lot like that stupid, fat ‘ol camel.