The Difficulty of Entering the Kingdom
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 25).- Mark 10:23–25
Whether the rich young ruler ever repented of his idolatry in loving God more than his wealth is unknown (see Mark 10:22). However, we do know that issues of wealth and the impediment it can be to discipleship are not limited to the very wealthy. Jesus’ teaching immediately after His encounter with the rich man demonstrates that everyone who seeks to follow Christ as His disciple must consider how personal possessions impact one’s relationship to the Lord.
One commentator highlights how Mark 10:23 tells us that Jesus looked around before delivering the teaching in today’s passage on how difficult it is for the “rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (vv. 24–25). The sense is that Jesus took a “commanding survey” of the situation, calling His hearers to decide whether they would imitate the rich man’s example and forsake Jesus for their possessions or remain faithful to Christ even if it would cost them their material goods. So, every man and woman who professes to follow Jesus—rich and poor alike—must read His teaching on wealth and look for personal application.
Our Lord tells us that it is difficult for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God; indeed, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to enter heaven (Mark 10:23–25). We should not play down Christ’s hyperbolic language here. There was no needle gate in Jerusalem through which a camel could enter with great effort, as some say when interpreting this passage; Jesus truly means that riches have the potential to be such a strong impediment to discipleship that it is simpler to fit a large animal through a tiny opening than it is for those with a great deal of material goods to attain eternal life. But note that Jesus does not say it is impossible for wealthy people to be saved. One’s spiritual state is not determined by one’s net worth. In the first century and ever since, there have been true disciples of Jesus who have been very wealthy (for example, Joseph of Arimathea; see Matt. 27:57). There have also been many poor people who have not followed Christ. They do not automatically gain entry to heaven by way of impoverishment.
Quantity of riches does not reveal the state of one’s heart. It is equally possible for rich and poor alike to trust in money and not in Christ. Thus, we should take care that our hope is in Him, not in our wealth.
Wise Christians understand that wealth brings with it certain temptations. The wealthier we are, the more we may be prone to look for security in our riches and not in Christ. Thus, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary Mark, “The wealth with which we have been blessed by God can become a snare to us, so we need to think about the eye of the needle and take stock every now and then of where our hearts are.”
Passages for Further Study
Luke 8:1–3; 18:18–25