WHAT IS “THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE” IN MATTHEW 19:24?
by Shawn Brasseaux
The Bible says:
- Matthew 19:24: “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
- Mark 10:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
- Luke 18:25: “For 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.”
What is this “eye of the needle?”
Let us begin to grasp the context, Matthew 19:16-26 (the parallel passages are Mark 10:17-27 and Luke 18:18-27). We will read from Matthew’s account:
“ And, behold, one came and said unto him [Jesus Christ], Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.  He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,  Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
“ The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?  Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.  But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
“ Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.  And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.  When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?  But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”
Jesus said in verse 24, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” What is this “eye of the needle?” Immediately, we think of something like a sewing needle, with its small eye through which thread passes. However, some claim that Jesus is really talking about a camel passing through a small gate (the so-called “camel gate”). Which explanation is correct?
Vine’s Concise Dictionary of Bible Words has the following information under the entry of “needle:”
“Note: The idea of applying ‘the needle’s eye’ to small gates seems to be a modern one; there is no ancient trace of it. The Lord’s object in the statement is to express human impossibility and there is no need to endeavor to soften the difficulty by taking the needle to mean anything more than the ordinary instrument. An attempt is sometimes made to explain the words as a reference to the small door, a little over 2 feet [0.61 meter] square, in the large heavy gate of a walled city. This mars the figure and receives no justification from the language and traditions of Palestine.”
Someone once said the camel going through the eye of a needle is an example of the Lord’s humor. Think of the absurdity. A giant camel fitting inside of the tiny eye of a sewing needle!
What Jesus Christ was teaching was that material riches were a hindrance in His earthly ministry. It is not good to be wealthy in Matthew through John! His audience would not want to give up their wealth to follow Him. Think of the wealthy ruler who went away—this was the very reason Jesus mentioned the camel passing through the eye of the needle in the first place!
As per Christ’s instructions, those followers in His earthly ministry were to sell all they had and give alms. Reading from Luke 12:31-33: “ But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.” They did just this in Acts 2:41-47 and Acts 4:31-37.
Why were they to sell all their possessions? They were to prepare to avoid Antichrist’s snare. With the Antichrist’s coming on the horizon, Israel was to sell their possessions. Revelation 13:16-18 says: “ And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:  And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.  Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”
Once the Mark of the Beast would be instituted, they would not be able to buy or sell without it. In order to keep their money, they would be pressured take the Mark of the Beast. However, if they had given up all of their wealth as Jesus commanded, they would have nothing to ensnare them.