Archive for September 15, 2011
Can a Camel Pass Through the Eye of a Needle? Can a Rich Person Enter the Kingdom? by Mark D. RobertsPosted: September 15, 2011 in The High Calling
“In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for
a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”
Luke 18:25 is one of Jesus’ more troubling sayings, especially for those of
us who have abundant financial resources. Though we might not be as rich as
those who own magnificent mansions and opulent yachts, compared with most people
in the world and with most people throughout human history, we are rich. And
since, on a literal level, we know that camels are too big to pass through eyes
of needles, Jesus’ statement here is distressing.
When I was a young Christian, I was greatly reassured to learn from one of my
Sunday School teachers that Jesus wasn’t envisioning something impossible. In
fact, I was taught, there was in Jerusalem a gate known as the Eye of the
Needle. The top of the opening was fairly low to the ground, so that if a camel
were to pass through this gate, it would have to kneel down. Jesus, by referring
to this well-known architectural element, was saying that rich people have to
humble themselves if they are going to be saved. Whew!
Unfortunately, there was no such gate in Jerusalem, or anywhere else for that
matter. Jesus was not saying what I learned in Sunday School. Rather, he was
once again speaking hyperbolically, using exaggerated speech and humor to make a
point. Can you imagine how silly it would be to try and get a camel, which is
not a cooperative animal in the best of circumstances, to pass through a literal
needle’s eye? Ridiculous!
Does this mean a rich person cannot enter the kingdom of God? Are we out of
luck? That’s what those who heard Jesus worried about, saying, “Then who in the
world can be saved?” (18:26). Jesus answered this question: “What is impossible
for people is possible for God” (18:27). If he wanted to, though I don’t suppose
he ever would, God could make a literal camel pass through a tiny little hole.
More importantly, though, God could make a way for a rich person to enter his
kingdom. God could do this. God actually does this.
Tomorrow, I want to reflect a bit further on this passage and consider why
Jesus seems to be picking on the rich here. In the meanwhile, you might think
about the following questions.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What are the impossible
things in your life for which you need God’s help? Have you asked for his help?
Are you keeping on in your requests?
PRAYER: Gracious God, you have been called the “God of the
impossible.” How true! You can do—and have
done—what nobody in all creation, what no other power in the universe cand
Indeed, you have done the impossible in my life, forgiving my sin, healing my
wounds, giving me hope, showing me extravagant patience. You have answered
prayers that I dared to speak and prayers for which I couldn’t even find the
O Lord, continue to do your work in and through me. Do the impossible! Allow
me to be a channel of your grace and truth in this world, wherever I am, in
spite of my flaws. Live in me as I live in you. Amen.