The Camel and the Needle

A bystander pointed out the short green door on our right. I was on a trip to the Holy Land in 2011 and the stranger pointed out the “camel door.” He was referring to the Scripture passages in Matthew19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."

I’ve heard the story preached a dozen times and an internet site repeats the interpretation: “The eye of a needle" is a reference to the city gate. For security, a city would have a wall around it and the only way for entrance was to go through "the eye of the needle". It was called this because it was a very small entrance, and a traveler would have to dismount their camel, removing everything from the back of the camel. Then the camel would have to get all the way down and enter through on its knees. This is also an analogy for how we have to humble ourselves and detach ourselves from all our worldly possessions to enter the Kingdom of God.”

The Rev. Chris Bowhay explained this week at his Tuesday morning sermon that this has been an urban myth since about the 9th century; it isn’t the correct interpretation of these verses in Matthew, there is no city gate in Jerusalem that the camel squeezed through.

Chris explained that Jesus was using hyperbole to emphasize that it is impossible for anyone to be saved on his own merits just like a camel can’t squeeze through too small a space. In Jesus’ time, wealth was seen as proof of God’s approval, so if a wealthy man couldn’t get into heaven, no one could.

Let’s look at the next verses (25-26) in Matthew: “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

When all the verses are read together (24-26), it is clear that Jesus was teaching about our salvation. It’s good that Jesus counsels: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

Getting into heaven is a miracle; we can’t do it on our own, we have to rely on God.

Blessings, my friend,


(click below for MP3 file)