BY: Fr. Arthur Ntembula


(Wisdom 7:7-11, Hebrews 4:12-13, Mark 10:17-30)

What do you hold as most important in your life? Jesus seems to be asking us this question as he talks to the rich young man in the gospel. He tells this man to value the kingdom of God over worldly things. He should sell his possessions for him to inherit the kingdom of God. The young man is saddened because he is not ready to detach himself from his riches. Jesus uses this opportunity to drive home a teaching as he talks about “the eye of the needle.”

For his primary audience at that time, the “eye of the needle” was a language very familiar. When we hear these words with a literal frame of mind we think of a sewing needle and a string or thread. This is not what Jesus is talking about, even though for us it still makes sense that a Camel cannot go through that tiny eye of the needle. The bible is best understood when taken in context. What then does Jesus mean by “it is easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The eye of the needle, in this case, was one of the several gates that provided passage through the city of Jerusalem’s massive walls. The “Needle Gate” was used when the city’s main gates were closed at night. Those coming into the city ‘after hours’ could only enter through the smaller gate(s), otherwise known as “the eye of the needle.” It was designed for security reasons so that enemies could not simply ride into the city on their camels or horses and attack. The gate was so small that a man would have to offload his Camel of all that it was carrying and then carefully lead it through this small gate. It was a slow and difficult task. You can see that it would indeed be difficult for a Camel to get through that same gate. So while “eye of the needle” seems proverbial to us, it was a language very familiar to Jesus’ listeners since they already knew what he was talking about the moment he mentioned it.

Understand that Jesus did not dislike the rich young man in the parable for being materially wealthy, but he did sense his emptiness and search for a greater purpose, even after following all the commandments. So, Jesus told him that to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, he needed to disentangle himself from his wealth first like you would have to offload all that was on a camel’s back to get through the eye of the needle. Unfortunately, the rich young man in the parable was not willing to offload his back and he missed out on what his heart was looking for.

With this analogy, Jesus has made his point. The kingdom of God has a narrow gate “the eye of the needle.” For us to access it, we have to make ourselves small by discarding all the luggage that does not go with the reality of heaven. He asks us to share what we have with the poor, not in a way that we remain with nothing ourselves, but that our gesture could make other people’s lives, who are less privileged, better. One who serves the poor serves Christ and secures a place in heaven for himself. To serve the poor is to put Christ before everything else. Riches are nothing without Christ. They come and vanish without a trace.

In the first reading, Solomon chooses wisdom. Wisdom is a representation of God in the Old Testament conception of the divine. One who chooses to be wise chooses God. This means that Solomon, rich as he was, still yearned for the presence of God in his life. Money does not have any value without wisdom from above. Let us first seek the kingdom of God. The rest shall be given to us; as the scriptures remind us.

Fr. Arthur Ntembula

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