Controversy exists regarding the phrase "for a camel to go through the eye of a needle". Some say the word translated camel should be rope; regardless of whether Jesus intended rope or camel neither could hardly go through the delicate eye of a needle!
The question asked by the disciples "Who then can be saved?" and Jesus' answer reveals the nature of salvation. Salvation cannot be earned by even the wealthy. It is a gift to be received, otherwise it is not a gift. If salvation can be earned by the rich (and many Pharisees were wealthy) then the poor are disqualified. With wealth comes privilege and with poverty comes exclusion.
Interpretation depends upon the context. Jesus has been teaching about the nature of the kingdom of God against the backdrop of the Pharisees' religious system. The Pharisees think that their law-keeping and relationship to Abraham qualify them as kingdom people and that their wealth proves their citizenship.
According to the other narratives regarding the kingdom its citizens are childlike (small enough to enter the eye of the needle) in their trust and childlike in their dependence upon the King to provide their every need, including admittance into the kingdom. There's nothing childlike in the Pharisee's behavior. Their largeness (in attitude and demeanor, not physical stature and self-confidence) prohibits their entry into the kingdom.
The disciples however, in their childlike trust, are citizens of the kingdom of God. They have nothing to rely upon for admittance into the kingdom, not social status, wealth, religious experience, etc. but simple trust in Jesus Christ and that simple trust proves they are citizens of heaven's kingdom.
"Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3).
Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
Mark 10:23-31; Matthew 19:23-30; Luke 18:24-30
- Why is it so difficult for rich people to enter the kingdom of God?
- What does Jesus promise to those who exchange the temporal kingdom for the kingdom of God?
- How do the first workers differ from those following them later in the day?
- What does the landowner promise subsequent workers?
- Why do those who've worked less time receive the same wages?
- What expectation do the first workers have?
- How do their expectations change throughout the day?
- What does this tell you about your expectations?
- What attitude do the first workers have toward the landowner? the final workers have toward the landowner?
- Read John 20:30-31 and record John's purpose for writing his gospel.
- Why do so many still not believe who Jesus is despite seeing His many miracles?
- How do the people living across the Jordan differ from those on the other side?
- Why do they believe?
Riches insulate wealthy people from the reality of their spiritual poverty. Pray for our nation as we experience economic uncertainty. Ask the Lord to use this to get people's attention. Also ask the Lord to help you walk in childlike trust.