August 17, 2021 - Eye of a Needle - A Reflection on Matthew 19:23-30

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

“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 we read this we think it is the rich who have a problem entering heaven, but the matter here is not one of money but of attachments. The rich are attached to their wealth and possessions, but attachments can be to anything, even something as simple as a phone.

I remember a few years ago I was preaching a retreat to hundreds of people and I got to the subject of attachments. To make a point of how attached we are to things I asked my audience how many of them would be able to switch their phones complete off for three days. Five hands - just five - out of the hundreds present went up. Would you be able to do without your phone for three days? If we were to look at the subject more seriously we would discover dozens of things, if not hundreds, that we cannot do without.

These attachments can hinder our following Jesus. As he himself said, “So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions” (Luke 14:33). How does this come in the way. Consider the rich young man again.  He thought he was going to enter heaven because he kept the commandments. Or thought he was keeping them. Just one request from Jesus to sell everything shattered that illusion completely. 

How? What is the first commandment? “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any strange gods before me.” A “strange god” is anything we place over God. For the rich young man, money was his god because he couldn’t bear to be parted from it and follow Jesus. If we cannot bear to be parted from things, then they become our gods, don’t they? 

Which is why the apostles are astonished and ask, “Who then can be saved.” And Jesus basically replies that if it was left to us, nobody could be. However (and fortunately for us) salvation depends on God, which is why Paul writes: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). And we will be eternally grateful to God for this gift. 

The gift to us however, came at a price to God: His Son Jesus, and when we realize this, then we might also realize that all that we are attached to is worth nothing in comparison with being attached to Jesus.