And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For 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!” Those who heard Him said, “And so who can be saved?” But He said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.”
With a rather vivid image, Jesus compared a rich person attempting to enter the Kingdom to a camel attempting to pass through a needle’s eye. This was not just a difficult feat for a camel, it was impossible. Christians have tried for many years to understand this illustration in a way that is slightly more palatable. One of the most commonly-heard readings of this passage correlates the eye of the needle to a small gate at the entrance of Jerusalem, supposedly known as “needle’s eye.” Although this tale has been spoken as fact for centuries, no proof for such a gate exists. To look for this less offensive reading is to completely miss this point of Jesus’ teaching. What Jesus was illustrating was the utter impossibility of a rich person entering the Kingdom of God. There are not human means of attaining it. Yet, we want to find a way that we can attain eternal security by our own doing.
It should be noted that in Jewish society, wealth was generally understood as a sign of God’s blessing. To have abundance in life often instilled hope for the life to come. So, this teaching was especially astounding to Jesus’ Jewish followers. If those with wealth had been blessed by God, and yet Jesus was challenging their ability to enter the His kingdom, how would anyone be able to enter it?
Those listening to Jesus had been measuring God’s blessing with the wrong standard. Where they had seen possessions as an advantage, Jesus saw them as a stumbling block in His kingdom. Their deepest fears were confirmed: it was impossible! But Jesus said, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” This is the key difference that Jesus made explicitly clear: what humans cannot do for themselves, God can. The solution to their eternal problem would not be solved by them but by God alone. We are just as prone as the disciples to equate financial security with spiritual blessing but the means of salvation has not changed. Salvation comes from God alone.
- Why do we correlate worldly possessions with God’s blessing? How have you fallen prey to this type of thinking (even if subconsciously)?
- What is so appealing about the prosperity gospel that continues to infiltrate our Christian culture today? How is this way of thinking about God toxic to our churches and toxic to our relationship with Him?
- Spend some time asking the Lord to do what only He can—even if it seems impossible to you.