The Eye of a Needle

By Clarence W. Fell, III

What is the “eye of a needle” in Matthew 19:24? Have you ever wondered? Most of us have. I realize that this is not an earth shattering problem. It is just an intriguing puzzle that has aroused our curiosity now and then. Let’s take a brief moment to kick back, relax and consider this little brain teaser. I believe we can settle the question once and for all. Let’s see if you agree.

First, the two main positions are as follows:

A. A literal sewing needle.

B. A small gate in a wall for pedestrians.

The gate theory is the most popular position held today. It is full of stirring imagery. It brings to mind a camel freed from its burden and down on its knees humbly crawling through the gate. The camel, of course, illustrates the rich man who must get free of his burden of riches and come crawling humbly on his knees to God.

Absolutely beautiful imagery isn’t it? I just get goose bumps thinking about it. But, goose bumps aren’t a safe way to settle even a small Bible question so let’s look at the text.

Consider the following pieces of the puzzle:

1. In vv. 16-22 the rich young ruler approaches Christ making inquiry about eternal life. Christ instructs this man to “go sell what you have and give to the poor.” At this the rich man goes away sorrowful because he did not want to part with his riches. He apparently wanted his wealth more than the eternal life he had inquired about.

2. In v. 23 Jesus takes advantage of this incident to teach his disciples about the danger of riches.

3. In v. 24 Jesus impresses the point on their minds by using the illustration of the camel and the eye of a needle.

4. In v. 25 we find that the disciples are “exceedingly amazed” and ask, “Who then can be saved?” This verse gives us a clue to the puzzle. If camels did actually go through these small gates, then why are the disciples “exceedingly amazed”? Why are they prompted to ask, “Who then can be saved?” Does it appear from the disciples’ response that they are thinking about a gate that camels do actually pass through?

5. In v. 26 Jesus said very simply and plainly, “with men this is impossible. ” Was it impossible for a camel to go through the gate in the wall? If we are going to teach that the “eye of a needle” is a gate then shouldn’t we change the impossible that Jesus spoke of to possible?

I agree that a literal sewing needle does not stir up much thrilling imagery or emotions, but we’re going to have to bite the bullet on this one. It is impossible for man, without God, to be saved whether he be rich or poor, just as impossible as it is for a camel to pass through the eye of a literal sewing needle. But with God even the impossible becomes possible and the camel can pass through the eye of a literal sewing needle, if God so desires, and man can be saved.

So what do you think? Is the “eye of a needle” a gate or a literal sewing needle?

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 7, p. 197
April 5, 1990