When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea named Joseph, who also was himself a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away.
Some professional male footballers are incredibly wealthy. You can argue that they are dedicated, hugely skilful athletes, they provide wonderful sport and entertainment, have a limited career span, etc. and therefore deserve to be well paid, but there is no getting around the obscene difference between the fortunes of football’s biggest stars and their supporters. It’s not just true in football, of course. But we know that Jesus is really against rich people, don’t we?
Thankfully not! Our reading today records that Joseph of Arimathea, known as a saint in some Christian traditions, is a rich person who cared for the body of Jesus. Until this moment he had been a clandestine disciple, a member of the Council who had disagreed with how Jesus had been treated.
Recently, we have seen young, successful footballers confronting the UK government on holiday hunger and using their influence for good. It must be challenging for them in the spotlight of antisocial media scrutiny and few boundaries to keep making good moral choices. No wonder Jesus’ words ring out: it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God. We should do well to encourage them and pray for them.
This doesn’t eliminate the terrible problem we have in UK society of an ever-widening gap between the poorest and richest people. Our churches, along with other hubs of community life, have become wealth redistribution centres, as we give generously to sustain food banks and warm banks, and have special Christmas collections of tins, toys and toiletries for local people who need support.
But everyone needs to play their part. Acts of charity are a necessity right now, but in a just system, food banks and the like would not be needed. Pray for those who have much, as well as those who have little, that we will all start to ask hard questions about the inequalities in our society.
God of the poor, God of the rich, God of everyone in between, our society is broken.
Sorry for my part in continuing injustice.
Whether I’m poor or rich, or somewhere in between, help me be a force for good.
Roo Stewart is Programme Support Officer for URC Church & Society and a member of the Joint Public Issues Team