Camels and Needles

An important man asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? Only God is good. You know the commandments: ‘Be faithful in marriage. Do not murder. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Respect your father and mother.’ ”

He told Jesus, “I have obeyed all these commandments since I was a young man.”

When Jesus heard this, he said, “There is one thing you still need to do. Go and sell everything you own! Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come and be my follower.” When the man heard this, he was sad, because he was very rich.

Jesus saw how sad the man was. So he said, “It’s terribly hard for rich people to get into God’s kingdom! In fact, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God’s kingdom.”

When the crowd heard this, they asked, “How can anyone ever be saved?”

Jesus replied, “There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything.”

Peter said, “Remember, we left everything to be your followers!”

Jesus answered, “You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or wife or brothers or family or children because of God’s kingdom will be given much more in this life. And in the future world they will have eternal life.” (Luke 18:18– 30)

Saturday Night Live once performed a skit about a rich man who devoted his fortune to finding a way to fit a camel through the eye of a needle so that he could get to heaven. But neither a shrinking ray, a giant, camel-sized needle, or pureeing a camel with a giant blender quite seemed to be the solution.

Jesus’ point about the camel was to counter the prevailing notion that God’s favor or disfavor was demonstrated on the basis of one’s bank account and general prosperity. Those who were wealthy, most believed, were favored by God and therefore certain to achieve heaven. Those who were poor and sick, most believed, were just as obviously destined to be excluded from it.

Jesus taught instead that salvation came from God and was dependent upon God. The disciples wondered who could be saved. Jesus affirmed that people couldn’t do it, but that for God, it was in fact possible. We are can enter God’s kingdom because of what Jesus did on the cross and for no other reason.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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