“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” Matthew 19:24. (See parallel Scriptures Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25).
The differences have to do with whether or not Jesus actually used the word “camel” or used the word “rope.” Other differences involve whether or not the “eye of the needle” pertains to an ancient trade gate to Jerusalem, used after hours for trade caravans; or an ancient mountain pass that was difficult for caravans to get through without losing everything to robbers; or an ancient low gate to inns; a sewing needle; or a surgeon’s needle.
Regardless of the differences the main point remains the same. Jesus is using this literal interpretation to drive home the idea of impossibility.
This camel passing through the eye of a needle is a hyperbole, a deliberate exaggeration, and just like the Jewish Talmudic literature uses the “…nor an elephant going through the eye of a needle” they both mean, “most unlikely, impossible.”
Now, for believers, this last point is important because the impossibility the Lord is referring to is the impossibility of any body saving themselves from the penalty of their sins by their own doing.
In other words, salvation is by grace and not by works.
Jesus loved to use hyperboles; these deliberate exaggerations, because they made the main point of his argument so obvious.
He referred to the spiritually blind Pharisees this way; who “…strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). Then again, when the Lord addresses the Pharisees’ hypocritical righteousness in Luke 6:41, Here Jesus uses another hyperbole, a grossly exaggerated description when He asks the Pharisees, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?”
Now, the use of these deliberate exaggerations were obvious; to show that Christ saving you by his merits and you trying to save yourself by your own merits are as different as day and night. And the grand slam is:
“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.” The truth here is as obvious as an albino rhino.
Since it is evident that the Lord is suggesting that entering the Kingdom of Heaven and “being saved” are synonymous, then His camel exaggeration is His way of effectively describing for His disciples why it is more than difficult, nay, impossible for people to buy their way into Heaven—to use their money to purchase their salvation. The main problem with thinking that salvation could be bought with money is that no one knows how much money it would take to make such a purchase.
The Lord’s hyperbole also effectively describes for His disciples why it is more than difficult, nay, impossible for people to use their own ‘good’ works to save themselves—to do the amount of righteous deeds that could earn their salvation and a place in Heaven. The main problem with this thinking is that no one knows how many ‘good’ deeds it would take to be sure a person’s salvation is secure!
The good news is: “…The things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Moreover, God not only makes salvation possible, but also He offers it as a free gift. Humans do not need any money or any works to pay for their salvation. That salvation is a free gift is the primary reason why human merit and divine merit are absolutely dissimilar!
While Matthew (19:24) literally means that it is impossible for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle so it is virtually impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, if he thinks he can buy his way there. Likewise, it is possible for a camel to squeeze through an “eye of the needle” trade gate, only after everything the camel is carrying has been stripped off of his back
Likewise, the implication is made that a camel can pass through a mountain pass called the “eye of the needle,” only after the owner loses everything he has to the robbers who controlled this mountain pass.
In all of these scenarios, these camels can be compared to “redeemed” believers who squeeze through the Kingdom of Heaven’s gate. Salvation from sin is Jesus Christ plus nothing. All the gold in Fort Knox cannot wash away sin; only the blood of Jesus Christ can do that.
In the Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus the Christ says:
“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Because this life is full of many afflictions, trials, and tribulations that press us like grapes, and because so many people choose to obey their carnal urges rather than allow the Holy Spirit to lead and teach them so that they will desire to surrender to Jesus’ Lordship, many believe that Christ’s “Way” is not only difficult but well nigh impossible to follow.
And as a result, they feel just like the young rich man in Matthew 19:21-22—who felt that he had to give up too much to follow the Lord.
Consequently, most choose to enter through the wide gates that lead to destruction because these are the roads most traveled. The people who take these roads know pretty much what to expect while they make their journey through this life. The outlook of the Christian is the complete opposite. They pursue Jesus Christ because as He said, “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul” (Mark 8:36)?
To the displeasure of many, the Lord actually portrays wealth as a hindrance to salvation. While it certainly is no sin to be rich, as many great men have been so, so it is equally that most like the Rich Young Ruler cannot control the false security, the bewitching power and the temporary fame it gives them.
Salvation is a gift from God, freely given to all those who are willing to forsake all and follow him
“For we have not been redeemed with silver and gold….but with the precious blood of Jesus.”
He’s only a Prayer Away!