Christian Art | The image depicts a gate similar to The Eye Of The Needle. In order to squeeze through, a camel would need to be disburdened of all its load – its cargo – in effect thereby becoming poor.
23 ¶ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.
24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.
27 ¶ Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?
28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.
Peter says to Jesus, in effect: ‘Look, we have left everything, and we’ve followed you. So what do we get in return? Where is the return on our risk, on our investment?’
And strangely then, Jesus does promise Peter an astonishing return, the twelve disciples’ effort and work and self-sacrifice magnified beyond all measure. They shall sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes – Israel re-embodied! And gloriously so. For one house forsaken, there shall be an hundredfold returned, and for one mother an hundredfold, and for one father and brother and sister and child – an hundredfold. For each acre of land, an hundredfold.
This great reward is as one with the leaving behind of earthly values. An hundredfold of mothers! Of fathers! In other words, there is to be absolute companionship with all in Jesus’ Kingdom. There will be one great family, transcendent of worldly human terms. Rather than the worldly partitioning of all the little that is between small families locked into their own sense of their own interests, there will be all for all, mothers and fathers for all, sisters and brothers for all, land and with it the food for all. Thy Kingdom come.
‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’ It is an expression signifying that a thing is impossible, unthinkable, humanly speaking. There has been a pleasant story that in Jerusalem there was a narrow gate called The Eye Of The Needle, but it seems there is no real evidence for this – and indeed, why would Jesus then so explicitly say that with man it is impossible. ‘A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.’ For men: impossible. But with God, all things are possible.
With God, it is possible for those with whatever riches they may have, whether great or small, to enter into the Kingdom of heaven. This sits alongside the injunction to give away everything you have and follow Jesus. It sits with the Beatitudes: blessed are the poor; blessed are the meek. Because they will inherit the Earth. Because theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Give away everything you have and follow me.
It can be all too easy to want things and to cling to things, even as we know this wanting and clinging interfere with our happiness. How good it is to let things go! This is no doubt easier said than done. The compulsions to want and to cling can be so heavily trained into us.
Blessed the man who ceases to devote such energy to worrying about great riches, when a little will do for today, and the little we have, and comfortably have, can assist us as we serve others, as we give and share, and as we receive all the good things from others that we can’t do by ourselves, as we live in community. Here there are riches! Here is God’s Kingdom come.
Increase in us, Lord, your gift of faith,
so that the praise we offer you
may ever yield its fruit from heaven.
We make our prayer through our Lord.
King James Audio Bible KJV | Endnotes | King James Version
A Rich Man Through The Eye Of The Needle | With God All Things Are Possible
Jesus tells a rich young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor in order to inherit eternal life. The man goes away sorrowful, and Jesus then remarks to his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. The phrase ‘eye of the needle’ is commonly interpreted as a reference to a small gate in the wall of Jerusalem called the ‘Needle’s Eye’. This gate was so narrow that a camel could only pass through if it was unloaded and had to crawl through on its knees.
The message of the passage is clear: the accumulation of wealth can be a hindrance to salvation. Jesus does not condemn wealth in itself but warns against the love of money and the dangers of materialism. Jesus calls on his followers to give generously to those in need, as demonstrated by his command to the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor.
This teaching has been echoed through Christian history.
Saint John Chrysostom, fourth-century bishop and theologian, preached: ‘Not to enable the poor to share in our goods is to steal from them and deprive them of life. The goods we possess are not ours, but theirs.’
Saint Francis of Assisi, thirteenth-century friar, famously gave up his wealth and lived a life of poverty, inspiring countless Christians to follow his example.
Saint Basil the Great, fourth-century bishop and theologian, wrote: ‘The bread which you do not use is the bread of the hungry; the garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked; the shoes that you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot; the money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor; the acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.’
In the Protestant tradition, Martin Luther wrote in his Small Catechism: ‘What does God say about all these commandments? He says, “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”’ Luther interpreted this passage to mean that God punishes those who love their possessions more than Him but blesses those who love Him and His commandments.
John Wesley, founder of Methodism, emphasized the importance of using wealth for the good of others. He wrote: ‘Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.’
Pope Francis has spoken out against the ‘idolatry of money’, calling on the wealthy to use their resources to help the poor and marginalized. He has also criticized the ‘throwaway culture’ that allows some people to accumulate wealth while others suffer.