Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person 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 astounded and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.’
Then Peter said in reply, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, 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 children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.
Working with children and young people this passage always confuses them. What an odd analogy! Who on earth would even bother trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle? It obviously won’t fit! It seems to have confused and confounded Biblical scholars throughout the ages too: Is ‘camel’ a mistranslation of the word ‘rope? Was ‘The Needle’ the name of a very small gate into the walled city of Jerusalem?
But does it matter? The point is still the same – being rich makes it difficult to get into heaven. Why? Because individual wealth is almost always the result of the exploitation of others. I’m typing this on my iPhone which was probably assembled by someone who was paid pennies per hour for their labour. Maybe you’re reading it on a screen, or listening to the audio version on a device, which has a similar origin. Workers aren’t paid enough so that others can ensure good profits and accumulate personal wealth. Profits are the unpaid wages of the working class
So what can we do? We can all make choices about what we buy. We can make ethical choices about what we wear. We can stand up for the exploited by using our own riches to make ethical choices – and an ethical choice as a consumer is almost always more expensive than the non-ethical option. It will make us poorer. I doubt it will make us poorer to the extent that we can comfortably fit through the eye of a needle and get into heaven. To get that poor, I’ll need to buy the latest iPhone.
Loving God, I don’t want to be poor. I’ve seen the misery being poor causes I’ve seen homeless people and refugees I’m aware of people struggling to pay bills or feed their children I don’t want that for me and my family. Could you let me know of an easier way to get into heaven? Please?
Leo Roberts, Children and Youth Development Officer, North Western Synod