I've wondered many times about why Jesus would have used the analogy of the camel going through the eye of the needle to a rich man entering the kingdom of heaven. After all these years in church, I had never heard an explanation of it. Today I went, as I do most days, to Joseph Herrin's Parablesblog to partake of his wisdom, and lo and behold, there it was, the explanation of the camel going through the eye of the needle.
Joseph tells us "that in the days of Christ cities were surrounded by walls for protection against invading enemies. Gates were set in the walls to allow people and materials to come and go. These gates were closed at night and in times of danger, but it was still necessary to allow a limited flow of people in and out. Therefore, built into the large gates was a small door which could be opened to let a man in or out. This small door was called the eye of the needle.” How fascinating is that? It becomes easy then to see where that analogy comes from. Camels were used in those days (and maybe in these days, I don't know) to carry large loads of possessions about on their backs for their owners. From what I can remember from history, a lot of these people didn't have established homes like we do, they were wanderers on the desert, sometimes known as bedouins. So if a person came to the gate with a camel with a huge pack on its back, the owner would have to remove everything from the camel's back in order to facilitate the camel getting through the gate or the "eye of the needle".
It seems to me that lately I am seeing how we are all walking around with some kind of big pack on our back. The packs could be our home, car, furnishings, clothing, boat, miscellaneous entertainment items, games, computers; hey maybe our packs even include food or medication or alcohol or drugs. Seems to me a pack is anything that keeps us from giving our whole being over to Christ for His use and glory.
It also becomes more and more clear to me that we Americans have had it all wrong. How many of us teach our children from the day they can first understand just how important a relationship with Jesus the Son, God the Father and the Holy Spirit Comforter is? Instead we teach our children how to save up and buy things. The American Dream is to own a home.
We have become a nation intent on owning things and pursuing our own pleasure at all costs. I'm not judging, believe me, because I have been right in there with the crowd, buying and hoarding and looking for my next acquisition which might somehow show everyone else how "succesful" I am.
And we have this notion that somehow we lacked something and that our children need to have it better than we did. But good grief, did we ever stop to look around and see who truly did not have what we had. I think I heard Francis Chan say in one of his sermon's that the average American family spends around $800 at Christmas and the average daily rate of pay in underprivileged countries is $2.00 for an annual salary of somewhere between $600 and $700!!! Yet in many of these countries Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds in the underground Churches, and these same people are giving their lives for Christ in martyrdom and being persecuted in ways we can't imagine.
This pack on the backs of Americans is looking like a cheap substitute now for the only possession in this life which amounts to true wealth...the gift of eternal life in Christ, being a friend of God, and living to accomplish God's purpose in this life.
Jesus told the rich young man in Luke: 18:22 ... Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.
That's a hard pill to swallow for most of us. We love our "stuff" and we don't want to have to give it up, it's our "security" in a world where there really is no security except that given to us by our heavenly Father. Who knows what the day will bring, a fire, a tornado, an earthquake, a flood...and your home, your car, your stuff is gone; and what happens if the economy truly does go bust? There could come a time when insurance companies have so many claims to fill that they go under, too.
Where do you put your trust then?
I'm not sure God wants us all to give up everything as Joseph has, maybe there's one thing you or I are putting more trust in than God. He is a jealous God and wants to have our first love, devotion and trust. So, for today, I ask you and myself, do you love and trust God more than anyone or anything else in the world? If not, what are you going to do about it?