The Eye of a Needle

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There is a tremendous need for warnings against the accumulation of wealth in the affluent society in which we live. During Jesus’ day, wealth and riches were very prevalent as well, although perhaps on a different scale. Jesus was anything but silent on this issue, and we have many foundational teachings regarding affluence. However, because of the effect that riches can have on us, it is quite easy to misinterpret scripture making us feel more comfortable with our accumulation of wealth. Let’s examine one of Jesus’ teaching that has been misinterpreted and misunderstood by many, including us.
Immediately after His conversation with the rich young ruler, Jesus turns and speaks to His disciples. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:23-27).
The verse which receives much attention and questioning is v.25. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Why did Jesus use this illustration, and what exactly did He mean by it? Over the past centuries, some have sought to grasp what Jesus truly taught in this passage, while others have endeavored to explain away this clear teaching to justify their lifestyle.
While there are various faulty interpretations for verse 25, we will only examine the most popular one. This is the idea that a very small gate in the wall of the city of Jerusalem was called “The eye of the needle.” It is suggested that getting a camel through this gate was extremely difficult and that Jesus was using this to illustrate how difficult it was for a rich person to enter heaven. This explanation does make some sense and has been accepted by a lot of individuals, including preachers and teachers of God’s Word. However, it is not an accurate understanding of Jesus’ illustration and thus results in a faulty interpretation of Jesus’ teaching.
One of the reasons people come to this faulty conclusion is because they are not willing to accept Christ’s words at face value. This is a result of selfish people predetermining what they believe and then attempting to align the scripture to support that belief. People want to accommodate their wealthy lifestyle and still claim to follow Christ. Let’s examine a few reasons why we should simply take this scripture for what it says.
Reason #1: Historical and archaeological evidence show no sign of any such gate called “The eye of the needle.” The Vines Expository Dictionary says this: “The idea of applying ‘the needle’s eye’ to small gates seems to be a modern one; there is no ancient trace of it. The Lord’s object in the statement is to express human impossibility, and there is no need to endeavor to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument.” Wikipedia states, “…there is no widely accepted evidence for such a gate.” There are many more sources that confirm the fact that there is no substantial proof for any gate in Jerusalem called “The eye of the needle.” This reason alone would be enough to defend a straightforward, face-value interpretation of verse 25. However, there are more reasons.
Reason #2: The response of the disciples in verse 26. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? (Mark 10:26). Why would the disciples ask such a question if Jesus was only referring to squeezing a camel through a small gate? Also, note that it says they were astonished out of measure! This is hardly a natural response if Jesus was only saying it was difficult for a rich man to enter the Kingdom. It seems like the disciples understood clearly that Jesus was stating it as impossible. In fact, that brings us to the last point that suggests Jesus was not referring to a small gate in this scripture.
Reason #3: The response of Jesus in v. 27. And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men, it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible (Mark 10:27). Jesus is not only answering the disciples’ question in this verse, but also confirming the difficulty of getting a camel through a needle’s eye. It is impossible with men! In stating this, He also shows us to what degree of difficulty a rich man enters heaven. It is completely impossible without God. Jesus does not apologize for making such a bold statement; neither does He expound further on His illustration, which indicates that the disciples clearly understood His point.
So, what can we learn from what we just examined? When Jesus said ‘needle,’ He meant a literal needle. When He said ‘camel,’ He was talking about a real live camel. There is no need to twist Jesus’ words to mean anything other than the ordinary everyday objects they are. We also can see the seriousness of not surrendering everything to Jesus Christ. I believe the main truth that Jesus was teaching His disciples was that without giving everything over to God, it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God. This is precisely why He gave this teaching immediately after the rich young ruler turned and walked away from a life of surrender and discipleship. This principle is still completely applicable to us in order to be His disciples. This means that we, as Christians, must be ready and willing to give up everything we have, even our lives, if necessary!
These verses also show us that without God, no one can be saved. Salvation comes only through Christ, and nothing we as men can do will get us into the Kingdom of God. While we are responsible to live a life of discipleship and obedience to Christ, salvation alone comes through Jesus’ blood, and without it, salvation is impossible!
In conclusion, I hope this article has challenged and inspired you to not only serve Christ with ALL you have but to dig into His Word and thoroughly examine the truths contained in scripture. Let us all endeavor to faithfully serve Christ and study His Word diligently. Study to shew thyself approved unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).