At a recent staff devotional time we were discussing the issue of God and money. Should Christians have stuff and accumulate money, or should we give everything away to the poor and perhaps even become poor ourselves? We all know that shoving a camel through the eye of a needle is impossible. So when Jesus used the analogy of a needle and a camel with regard to rich people, was he saying that it is impossible for rich people to go to heaven?
There seems to be three major explanations to the needle and camel analogy:
Explanation 1: The eye of a needle was a small gate through which travelers entered a city late at night. In order to get through the small gate, they had to unload their goods before taking the animal through. This was an uncomfortable and challenging task, especially late at night when the traveler was tired.
- The biblical lesson would be that if we have “stuff” we need to systematically examine our lives and our riches. If done correctly this should be an uncomfortable and challenging task, requiring prayerful thought and uncomfortable actions on our part.
Explanation 2: There is a mistranslation and the word camel is correctly translated “rope”. A rope needs to be unwound to a single strand before it can fit through the eye of the needle.
- The biblical lesson here would be similar to the one above. We should not allow worldly riches to entangle and bind us.
Explanation 3: Jesus was using hyperbole in the same way as when we are told to gouge out our eyes or cut off our hand if it causes us to sin. When using the needle and camel analogy, Jesus was perhaps using a typical hyperbole of the day to make a point.
- The biblical lesson would be that our stuff can become more important to us than the Kingdom of God and when that happens we have our reward, namely, our stuff rather than the Kingdom of Heaven.
My personal opinion is that regardless of how we interpret this passage of scripture, all three biblical lessons are accurate.
I do however believe that being rich will not keep us out of heaven. Here is why:
- The accumulation of wealth is something God does not frown on. There are plenty of scriptures that speak of God making people rich. Just study the lives of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to start. I am not talking about using God as a get rich quick genie in a bottle. I am saying that God is very interested in our money matters. I wrote a post about this some time ago that I encourage you to read to help give more insight.
- God respects the right of individuals to own property. Two of the Ten Commandments speak of this. We are not to steal stuff belonging to others and we are not to covet stuff belonging to others. Us owning stuff is protected by God so it must be okay to own it.
- The scriptures are filled with encouragement to take care of the poor and the vulnerable. If we do not have anything we cannot carry out this requirement.
Money is not evil – it is of course the love of money that is the root of all evil. Money itself can in fact be a tremendous blessing. Here is what I believe to be the bottom line: It depends on how you accumulate it and what you do with it.
You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today. – Deuteronomy 8: 17 & 18