22. When the young man heard this, he went away in sorrow, because he had great wealth.
23. Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
25. When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26. Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
There are two approaches generally taken to discussing this parable.
- The first is to do as James E. Talmage did and just catalog all the various approaches others have taken with the parable.
- The second is to go right off into the weeds (trying to be polite about it) with explanations about how Christ did not really mean what he was saying.
As a result, you are not likely to get taught the real message of what the “eye of the needle” is about.
So what are people not teaching or telling you about what is really going on? What can you learn from the context?
- The parable starts with a rich young man. Rather than follow Christ, he goes away in sorrow. That part usually gets left out of the story.
- Jesus uses this as a case study to draw the conclusion that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
- You can then see that rather than come to any expansive interpretation, the disciples are greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
- Christ states that with man, no one can be saved.
Two things are going on as sub-texts.
First, the disciples are reflecting the culture norm or belief that the rich are the most blessed of God. If anyone has earned salvation, it is the rich.
Second, they see that what Christ is saying is that even the rich cannot be saved in the kingdom of God.
So they ask a question which really means: “if not the rich, who can be saved?”
Notice that Christ does not disagree with them that it is impossible for the rich to be saved.
Instead, he says “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” He agrees that it is impossible for the rich (or anyone else) to be saved.
He then states that with God all things are possible.
That is, God can make the impossible happen.
Which, of course, is what Christ is all about – making the impossible happen through grace.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Do you ever find yourself attributing special spiritual grace to unrelated characteristics?
- Do you think God respects the rich more?
- Do you think God respects the famous more?
- Do you think God respects the beautiful more?
- Do you think God respects the poor more (C. S. Lewis wrote about that heresy)?
- Do you, in your heart of hearts, think that God really is a respecter of persons and families?
Do you ever find yourself thinking that with man it is possible to be saved – we don’t need God, or repentance or grace?
- Is there anyone who does not need to repent?
- Is there anyone who has enough merit that they don’t need God’s grace but can save themselves?
- Is there anyone who is flawless?
How does the lesson of the eye of the needle apply to how you deal with yourself and with others?
Why would anyone try to explain the parable away?
What do you think?