This is a quotation of Jesus which is found in Matthew 19:24 (parallel passages in Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25). The camel was the largest animal that most of the people Jesus was speaking to would have known about. The eye of a needle is the tiny hole through which the thread goes.
The saying can be understood quite literally. It is as hard for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom as it would be for a camel to go through the tiny eye of a needle. In other words, it is almost impossible. There are at least three reasons why having money can make it difficult to be a Christian.
- Riches can make you feel that you can deal with any situation that may arise. They encourage a false independence. Jesus referred to this in Rev 3:17.
- Riches can take your attention away from God. Jesus said “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt 6:21). You can be so focussed on maintaining what you have, that you neglect to pay attention to the things of God.
- Riches can make you selfish. It is a paradox that the more you have, the more you want. Rich people can fall into the trap of worrying about protecting their possessions, and to collect even more for security. Jesus mentioned this danger in a parable in Luke 12:16-19.
When the apostles heard this saying of Jesus, they were amazed because they mistakenly thought that riches were a sign of righteousness. They said “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:25). Jesus replied “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). So with God’s help, the rich can overcome the dangers of wealth and enter God’s kingdom. But it is much easier not to have the problem in the first place.