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23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19, NIV

A plain reading of this verse suggests that it is impossible for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Are there any denominations or prominent theologians that believe that the rich cannot enter heaven or the kingdom of heaven?

(Admittedly, what I call the "plain" reading appears to be an uncommon understanding of this verse—but I'm not asking about that here, since it has already been covered in other questions.)

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    The question is preposterous, considering all the rich people the New Testament portrays as faithful believers.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 28 at 10:49
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    @curiousdannii The question is reasonable and important. It brings into play important exegetical principles re various of Jesus' expressions (for example, does Jesus use hyperbole, irony, humour, memory techniques, and so on). This passage is often used by Christians against, say, Prosperity Gospel preachers. Jul 28 at 21:25
  • @OneGodtheFather Well those are important issues, but the question says it's not asking about how the passage should be interpreted, instead it's only asking whether anyone has this clearly wrong interpretation.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 28 at 21:32
  • @curiousdannii Isn't this the site for asking questions about Christianity? You're an expert, so to you it's clearly wrong. I'm an expert too, and I think the answer is 'no', but I don't know exactly how various denominations interpret this passage. Yes, Joe of Arimathea was wealthy. That's the beginning of an argument. But are there some denominations that completely eschew wealth, based in part on this passage? Would be interesting to know. Jul 28 at 21:40
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    'Simple living' Christian denominations might border on this sort of belief. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_living "Plain people typically belonged to Christian groups that have practised lifestyles which excluded forms of wealth or technology for religious or philosophical reasons. Such Christian groups include the Shakers, Mennonites, Amish, Hutterites, Amana Colonies, Bruderhof, Old German Baptist Brethren, Harmony Society, and some Quakers. A Quaker belief called Testimony of simplicity states that a person ought to live her or his life simply." Jul 29 at 0:05
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Have a look at Mtt 27: 57-60 :

"As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock "

Joseph of Arimathea is venerated by different denominations including the Catholic Church. The very fact that Jesus accepted him as a disciples, and chose to be buried in his family grave, hints at Joseph's entry into the kingdom of heaven in spite of being a rich man.

See also Matthew 5:3

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Of course, a rich man can be poor in spirit, can't he? After all, what Jesus said was that it would be 'difficult' and not 'impossible' for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

As regards the allegory of Camel and Eye of a Needle, there are different schools of thought on its interpretation. Some say that the original Aramaic word 'gamla' that Jesus used, could be translated both as 'camel' and as 'rope'. Some others say that Eye of the Needle was the name of a gate in Israel which made it hard for camels bearing load, to pass through.

So, it is doubtful if any denomination seriously thinks that the rich cannot enter heaven.

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  • +1 Good answer touching some important points. "Jesus said was that it would be 'difficult' and not 'impossible' for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven" But right after that, he says something that indeed sounds impossible - that a camel (the largest land animal in that area) could go through the eye of a needle (one of the smallest entrances). I would be very interested to see commentary by major denominations on this line. Jul 28 at 21:30
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    I have made a passing reference to the possible interpretations of the Camel-and-needle allegory. Jul 29 at 11:38

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