It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.Mark 10:25
This is a remarkable statement that Jesus makes. In it He highlights the terrible danger of affluence. This, He says, does horrible things to the soul. Most of us, if not openly then at least secretly, are envious of rich people. We wish we had money. And yet, if we really understood what Jesus is saying, we would not feel that way. We would feel sorry for them. We think them overprivileged; Jesus says they are underprivileged. They are deprived people. There is so much they are robbed of by the things they have. So Jesus goes on to point out the terrible danger of affluence.
It is impossible, He says,
for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
Let us not minimize His language here. Some commentators attempt to soften this by explaining that the
eye of a needle referred to a tiny gate, about four feet high, located in the wall of Jerusalem, and that by squirming and wriggling a camel could conceivably get through it. I do not see much evidence to support that view. I think Jesus meant a literal needle. Try to imagine a huge, humpy camel trying to squeeze through a needle’s eye. Jesus is saying to them,
Why is it impossible? It is clear from the context that riches tend to destroy the qualities you must have in order to enter the kingdom of God. They destroy the childlikeness of life. Affluence creates a concern for secondary values. Rich people are not worried about where their next meal is coming from; they worry about what it will taste like. They are not concerned about whether they worship God rightly but whether they are in a beautiful building. Riches transfer their concern from the necessary things to secondary.
Furthermore, affluence destroys teachability because it creates a false sense of power and authority. Those who have power because of their money begin to feel that they ought to be the teacher. They do not need to learn–they already know everything! This makes for arrogance, indifference, and for insensitivity to the needs of others, for isolation and a lack of concern.
Finally, affluence gradually enslaves those who are attached to it. It builds an increasing dependence upon comfort, upon
the good life, until people reach a point where they cannot give it up. They are owned by their possessions. Like to a habit-forming drug, they become addicted to things, addicted to comfort and ease. Therefore it destroys the responsive spirit that is ready and willing to follow truth whenever it is revealed.
That is why Jesus said it is impossible–with people. But not with God. This is the note of grace. God can break that enslavement to riches. Isn’t it interesting that if a rich person does come to Christ, he or she must come in exactly the same way as the poorest bum on skid row! Rich people have to acknowledge their complete and utter need and come as guilty sinners, wretched and miserable, and receive the gift of life at the hands of Jesus from the cross. There is no other way to come.
Lord, let me be ready to give up my possessions and put them back into Your hands.