Camels and Needles
22 August 2017
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich
to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Again I say to you,
it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said,
“Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said,
“For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible.”
This passage from today’s gospel sounds pretty tough, especially for us in comfortable Australia. So what is Jesus saying? Are we wealthy Westerners all doomed?
First, it helps to remember that the phrase ‘the Kingdom of heaven’ in Matthew is not primarily a reference to the place we hope to go when we die. When we read in the gospels the phrase ‘the Kingdom of God’ or the ‘the Kingdom of heaven’, it usually carries the sense of ‘the reign of God as King, now breaking into the world’. Seen from this perspective, to ‘enter the Kingdom of Heaven’ means to enter the realm of personal encounter with God as King and to live a life subject to His reign.
Second, in Jewish tradition, wealth was often seen as the sign of God’s blessing (Deuteronomy 8.18). If you were rich, it was a confirmation of God’s favour upon you. True to form, Jesus turns the dominant paradigm on its head. Being rich, rather than being a sign that you’ve made it with God, might actually be a big problem for you. Why? Because salvation comes to everybody, from the very rich to the desperately poor, exactly the same way: Through the free gift of grace received by humble faith. Nothing you own will get you there.
Our constant temptation is to trust in something other than grace, to somehow earn our way into God’s good books. It’s not what you own, how good looking, how talented, how powerful or even how religiously respectable you are that gets you into the Kingdom. Jesus insists that entry is through becoming little, like a small child who is helpless on its own, reaching it’s arms up to be picked up by someone much bigger. That’s how you experience the reign of God (Matt 18.3). It begins by recognising just how much you need Him.
Let “Lord I need you.” be the prayer of your heart today.
Matt Maher is here to help: Lord I Need You (Official Lyric Video)