The Rich and the Kingdom of God – the theme of Jesus’ answer to a young man’s question, reported in Mark’s Gospel – is a challenging passage of Scripture, which Rev. Geoff McKee discusses here. Camels and eyes of needles.
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Mark 10:17-31 (New International Version)
The Rich and the Kingdom of God
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 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.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
This is a fascinating passage of Scripture.
The image of the camel trying to squeeze through the eye of the needle dominates our thoughts.
It’s an absurd image, isn’t it?
The Greek word for camel, kamilos, and one of the Greek words for rope, kamiilos, are so similar – and the same applies in Aramaic – that some have suggested Jesus was misheard: a rope through the eye of a needle fits metaphorically in a way that a camel doesn’t.
However, I wonder if Jesus’ well-developed sense of the absurd was a factor here and so we mustn’t part with the camel prematurely!
Regardless, the point is the impossibility for those reliant on wealth to enter the kingdom of God.
Now, that should cause us at least a little unease and maybe even more than that – a bit of anxiety – because we’re all basically in the “rich young ruler” league, as far as Jesus would be concerned. [Read more…]