Earlier in the week, my daughter gave me one of her trousers & my sewing kit then proceeded to ask me to fix a tear that she got while at play a day earlier. I dragged my feet on this simple task because i was so engrossed in other things. Two days later, she reminded me again and I put everything down and started to work on it. I attempted severally to insert the thread through the eye of the needle but it just would not corporate. Rather, i was struggling to get the thread through. In frustration, this is how my conversation with her went;
Mum: The thread is not going through the needle. What should i do?
Daughter: Try harder.
Mum: (after cutting & licking the thread) The thread is not going through. It is not working…..
Daughter: Then shut one eye and use only the other one.
Mum & Dad: (uncontrolled laughter)
Daughter goes back to her animated conversation with the Dad.
I confess that I was dumbfounded with her innocent response but it got me thinking.
In the Bible era, the Persians had an expression to the tune of it is easier for an elephant to go through the eye of the needle. As this saying spread through the region and its environs the Jews had to tweak the saying to the largest animal familiar to them i.e. the camel. In the much research that I have done to the build up of this article, I have discovered that there is a higher probability that this gate did not exist but the saying did. Why? I have seen at least 3 different images that are being referred to as the gate known as the eye of the needle hence agree with the concepts that archeologists are still searching for its evidence that will conclude that this gate was not one of the many gates into Jerusalem.
There is another counter claim that the original saying was Aramaic and the Aramaic word for camel sounded similar to the word rope and therefore its original form was it is easier for a rope to pass through they eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.
As to which is correct or the authentic one, we will fully understand when we see Him face to face in heaven. For now, our focus is on what matters. Was Jesus saying that it is extremely difficult for the materially rich persons to enter heaven? Or what exactly was He saying in Matthew 19.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 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.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” 28 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. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife[e] or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
What has been commonly preached is that a camel would have to offload the luggage and wares so as to pass through this narrow gate. The rich young ruler was asked of the same, he went away sad because what was outside of him was also inside of him.
The water outside of the boat helps to keep the boat afloat. The danger & challenge is when the water meant to stay outside sips inside. It may sip in slowly or in a gush. When it starts to do so, the whole equilibrium equation becomes distorted and it needs to be attended to least you sink.
We sink, more often than not, because we do not want to deal with an issue. We want to accommodate it because we fear change and more so loss.The fear of change is part of human nature yet the greatest victories are gained from this 6 letter word. Change.
All that Jesus alluded to in verse 24 using an example of the eye of the needle was that change is a rallying call for anyone who has subscribed to salvation through Jesus Christ. The core message of salvation is the call for change, starting with self, then the body of believers and finally to the community. In that order. However, human beings tend to desire the same order in reverse. We want the community to change, the body of believers to change and then we change ourselves. I am not exempt of this as I am a human being as well the last time I checked.
Why do we not like change?
- Being the odd one out is first i.e. I would be swimming upstream while all others are going downstream. It is only dead fish that go downstream.
- The introspective questions that follow such as will the change be appreciated or even noticed?
- In today’s world, I would dare ask, Will the change make my life more comfortable compared to others? Will it give me a comparative advantage.
- What would be the motivation for change?
- Will the change be sustainable?
- Superiority complex or the reverse.
Why should we change from an individual level? My answer is simple. Why not? Change in light of the rich young man requires that we empty ourselves of what is inside and let God define what goes inside. The rich young ruler was a Jew. The Jewish or Pharisaic way of defining God’s blessing was material wealth. For the rich young ruler was asked to lose his definition of God’s blessing and let God himself do it since the journey of salvation is not legalistic, man centered or defined by the achievement of man but it is God centered, ordained & led. Therefore, some of the practices and beliefs that we hold as a church and individual Christians may not grant us passage to sit on the 12 thrones that Jesus was talking about when we reach the end of this journey of salvation. Why? Because we have let the water outside come into our minds, actions & beliefs instead of Scripture and God’s leading.
Change can be as obvious as dropping vices such as gossiping, drunkenness, prostitution, sexual inappropriateness & idolatry. Change can also be as drastic as Joseph’s decisions to standby Mary, his pregnant, virgin fiance at the cost of his reputation. You need to look deep and define what is your change…..what is your Joseph move that will greatly please God.
A dear friend of mine keeps on reminding me that salvation is a personal journey. Not a communal one. Not even a journey that a married couple take together. My friend places a deep emphasis that come judgement day, we will all be judged individually even for decisions that we made as a couple or as the body of Christ.
You see, my daughter was right after all.
God bless you.