In Matthew 19:24, what does “the eye of the needle” actually mean?
Matthew 19:24 presents us with a picture of difficulty. Jesus gives us a picture of a large thing, a camel, and a very small thing, the eye of a needle.
And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” And looking upon them Jesus said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (NASB) Matthew 19:24-26
Try to imagine someone attempting to push a camel through the eye of a sewing needle. Some have claimed the “eye of the needle” referred to a small gate in Jerusalem. The idea is that a camel would have to knee down in order to squeeze through. Others have claimed Jesus referred to a very narrow pass. Each of these explanations assume that a camel is able to get through but with difficulty.
Historical evidence does not support, these conclusions. The Greek text refers to a real sewing needle and a real camel. Jesus message is clear. It is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. He did not say that a rich man could enter with extreme difficult. He said it was impossible. The disciples understood Jesus point. They answered, “Then who can be saved?” The answer reveals the common belief that entrance into heaven required the giving of alms. The giving of alms to the poor blessed the giver with righteousness. So a wealthy man could purchase a lot of righteousness. He had a great advantage over others. So they asked, ” . . . who can be saved?” If any one could be saved, they believed a rich man could, but Jesus said it was impossible for them. Rich men are stuck!
Then Jesus goes on to explain that all things are possible with God. He is talking about spiritual birth. Rich men have difficulty seeing their need for God. Rich men can buy heaven. They must come to God as everyone else. God has made it possible for all, including the rich to be saved from the penalty of their sins.
Many who are rich do not depend on God as they should. They do not see their need for Him. Most do not become Christians. God owns everything in this world, including what He has given to the rich. So He calls on wealthy Christians to do the following:
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. (NASB) 1 Timothy 6:17-19