Around the Year, Bible lesson, Camel, Emmet Fox, God, Jesus, Needle's Eye, Old San Juan, possessions, Sewing needle, Sunday School
Imagine a camel trying to fit through the eye of a sewing needle! It is impossible. Or, so I always thought as a kid in Sunday School whenever this lesson rolled around. Jesus said, “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,” (Mark 10:25). I usually told my parents on the drive home from church, “We need to give up all our possessions.”
One day,my mom shared Emmet Fox’s little sermon on the subject. It’s not impossible, she explained. It’s just a lot of work. “…Every important city was surrounded by a wall for defense. When a laden camel arrived after sunset,” after the large gate had closed, “…the only way it could get in was to be unloaded of all merchandise, whereupon it would squirm on its knees through…” a low wicket gate known as the needle’s eye. (Around the Year with Emmet Fox, p.133)
As a newlywed in the 1980s, I was very interested in gaining possessions to furnish our new home and to keep up with our peers. I devoted a lot of time, energy, and thought toward this. I began having a reoccurring dream. I was always waiting in line to board a lovely aircraft for an exciting journey to a new destination, where I really wanted to go, from which I would never return. As my turn approached, I worried about where I’d left my purse, my keys, my suitcase, that new vase, the little oriental rug I loved. An overwhelming need to bring these items along always sent me running from the line, hollering, “Please wait! I’ll be right back!” I always missed the plane. I always woke up very perplexed.
I mentally practiced walking away from these things. I got the house where I wanted it, then moved on. I went back to school. I stopped comparing our home to others. I started caring more for friends and family. The reoccurring dream remained a constant warning. Then, one night I boarded the plane. I have no memory of what happened after that, except I awoke with the most peaceful feeling. I never had the dream again. I’d like to think I’ve found the way through that needle, by devoting more thought and energy to friends and family, than possessions. Thank goodness I have not yet reached the other side!
A special thanks to one of my favorite blogs for reminding me of this lesson. Yes, life is simpler in the wilderness, (another lesson from Memory Lake). http://malcolmscorner.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/how-many-things-dont-you-want/
Yes (or actually “no”). There is no historical or archeological evidence that there ever was an “Eye of the needle” door inside a city gae, where a camel that had it’s burdens taken off could crawl through on its knees. This “story” is totally bogus, and a made up explanation, that does not stand up to the Scriptures. The pictured gate/door in San Juan is probably just a “replica” based on this old, bogus story, not based on reality nor on Scripture. How do I know it is bogus? From the context! Jesus claims that a camel through the eye of needle is how difficult it is for a rich person to be saved (paraphrase). The disciples then exclaim that it is therefore impossible for anybody to get saved. Jesus does not correct this notion of impossibility, but rather states in Mt.19:26, Mk.10:27 and Lu,18:27 “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Therefore the point of the parable of “the camel through the eye of a needle” is to illustrate something that is humanly impossible, not something that is “just a lot of work.” This story, though cute, is not only historically and archeologically inaccurate and interpretatively wrong, it teaches heresy. Namely that with a lot of work of unburdening your soul (which apparently you interpret as ridding yourselves of your earthly posessions) and crawling on your knees, you can manage to squirm and wiggle your way into the kingdom, heaven, or salvation. All through human effort, since it has now become possible for man to do so without (bothering) God, and depending on Him to do the impossible. Let’s check our facts!
Hi David. Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I pray you were able to discern the spiritual message within the parable.
There is no “hidden message” in parables. They are (sermon) illustrations that Christ used to clarify one point (always). In this case the parable is very short: Camel through eye of needle is easier than a rich person getting saved. That’s it, that’s all He says. His point is: salvation is impossible (with man), but praise God, salvation IS possible with God… and only with God’s help (Grace). His own teaching after the parable clearly show that this is the “message” of the parable. Christ, our Teacher, used the parable to teach what follows, not to clarify what he said the the rich young ruler. Other than that there can be no deeper “spiritual message” within the parable. What you are advocating is called “spirtualization” in Biblical Hermaneutics, and I do not participate in that, and teach that this is one of the incorrect and irresponsible ways of interpreting the Scriptures. I stand for a cultural, historical, litarary, grammatical, contextual and literal interpretation of the Bible.
Please consider, for your own spiritual growth, that both are needed to see and feel Christ’s presence, per John 4:24-26, King James Version: 24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
Malcolm Greenhill said:
Nancy, fascinating. I had never heard about the ‘eye of the needle’ being a gate before. I googled the subject and came up with this interesting link which claims that there never was such a gate in Jerusalem but suggests some other esoteric explanations for the phrase.
Thank you also for the kind words about Malcolm’s Corner.
Thanks for the inspiration, Malcolm.
Cancer in My Thirties said:
Lovely writing…and a great message. So glad to be following your blog!
I am equally delighted to follow yours as well. You have a gift with words.