Matthew 19:24 – The Rich and Heaven
Jesus once declared: “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Does this passage suggest that it is utterly impossible for those who are wealthy to enter God’s kingdom?
If it does, then what shall we say of Abraham of whom Moses wrote: “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). If the wealthy are forbidden entrance into heaven, solely upon the basis of their material assets, then clearly the great patriarch, known as the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8), will not make it.
Such a conclusion, however, does not harmonize with the testimony of the Scriptures elsewhere regarding Abraham. Jesus Himself announced: “And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11; cf. also Hebrews 11:16).
What is the solution to this problem? It is not to be found in the novel suggestion that the “needle’s eye” is a small gate in one of Jerusalem’s walls, through which a camel might squeeze with some difficulty, nor the notion, occasionally suggested, that “camel” really means a rope. The Lord plainly specified that He was speaking of something “impossible” (cf. vs. 26).
Out by the side of Matthew 19:24 enter this marginal notation: See Mark 10:24. That passage reads: “. . . how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!”
Underline that key phrase. It is not the mere possession of wealth that bars the way to heaven; it is the trusting in that substance of which the Lord disapproves.
[Note: Some authorities disallow the words “trust in riches” in this verse. On the whole, though, we believe both manuscript and contextual evidence favors it. Cf. Lenski’s defense of it in his commentary on Mark.]
Scripture references: Matthew 19:24; Genesis 13:2; Isaiah 41:8; Matthew 8:11; Hebrews 11:16; Mark 10:24