You will need some paper, scissors, pen, glue stick and a length of string or wool.
Cut a strip from the long side of your paper, about 1cm wide. Then cut the rest of the sheet the other way into shorter strips, about 3cm wide. Take all the wide strips and fold them in half. Glue them around your string, so that they look like a row of flags. Now fold the thin strip in half and glue it, leaving the part near the fold unglued. This should make a needle shape. Make sure the eye is just big enough for the string.
Think about things that you hold onto tightly, things that it would hurt for you to lose. This might be family, home, job, security, health or other things. Write each on one of the flags.
Many of the things on the flags are blessings from God, and are good. But they are not ours.
The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,
the world, and those who live in it. (Ps 24:1)
We need to remember that all the things we have are God’s; we are just looking after them for a time. We must keep a light hold, not a tight hold, on the blessings of this world and be willing to give them back to God’s care when required.
Try to thread your string through the needle. It won’t go through. You will need to let go of the precious things on the flags.
Pull off each flag as you pull the string through the needle, praying over what is written there as you do. Into your hands I commend my job, my children, my money.
It’s said that men should be like chocolate – dark, strong and rich. Personally, I’d prefer more sweet and nutty, but maybe that’s carrying the metaphor a bit too far.
Whatever your thoughts, you have to admit that this guy was a bit of a catch. He was right-living, very wealthy and no doubt tall, dark and handsome – everything that you’d think would make him happy.
Yet after meeting Jesus, he went away sad. Why?
The Bible says ‘because he had great wealth’. He was unhappy because he was rich? Well, no. He was rich before he came to Jesus and he was only unhappy afterwards. So it was not the wealth that was the problem, it was the man’s attitude to it.
Ah yes, we say; Money is the root of all evil. Actually that’s a mis-quote. It’s 1 Tim 6:10, which says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil”. You see the difference? It is the love of money. That was why Jesus told this guy to give away all his wealth. Jesus wanted him to hold onto his blessings loosely.
It’s not that having wealth itself is a bad thing. In Jesus’ time it was a sure sign of God’s blessing. That’s why the disciples were surprised. “If even someone as obviously blessed by God as this rich man can’t enter God’s kingdom, what hope is there for the rest of us?” Jesus’ answer? None at all. We’d say it’s as hard as nailing jelly to the wall, or finding a needle in a haystack. Jesus talked about camels.
You may have heard the story about there being a small gate in the walls of Jerusalem called ‘The Eye of the Needle’, which reputedly was so small that a camel could only get through after being unloaded and by crawling through on its knees. Sadly, it’s not a true story. So, although the story does illustrate a point, Jesus simply meant that it is impossible.
With man this is impossible, but nothing is impossible for God.
You notice the commandments that Jesus challenged the man with? Not all ten. He missed out the one about wanting things that belong to others, and he missed out the ones to do with God. That’s because them would have failed at #1. You shall have no gods before me.
For the man in our reading, it was his money. He did not have money – money had him. He was holding his blessings from God so tightly that they were holding him. This can be a challenge to all of us. What is it that I find it hard to let go of? What has a hold of me?
“Who then can be saved?” Asked the disciples. Jesus’ reply is sobering. “Without God, it is utterly impossible.”
Jesus said that it is impossible for anyone, even those who are obviously blessed by God, to enter his kingdom by their own efforts. Not even being ‘good’ and obeying the commandments is enough. Nothing is enough. I can never earn my way to heaven. I need God to do the impossible. Fortunately, God does.
But in order to receive God’s free gift of eternal life, I need to put God first; to have no gods before him. So maybe that story of the camel unloading all the baggage and going through on its knees is not so far from the point after all.
Point – Needle – get it?
All I have is yours.
May I never hold on to your gifts so tightly that they begin to hold on to me.
May my hands be open, both to receive your blessings, and to let them go; both to carry your gifts, and to pass them on.
Teach me to see this temporary world for what it is – grass that withers, flowers that fall – and may I see instead your eternal kingdom and my treasure in heaven.
Through Christ our Lord,
As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running to him and knelt down and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get to heaven?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good! But as for your question—you know the commandments: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, respect your father and mother.”
“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve never once broken a single one of those laws.”
Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “You lack only one thing,” he told him; “go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor—and you shall have treasure in heaven—and come, follow me.”
Then the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away, for he was very rich.
Jesus watched him go, then turned around and said to his disciples, “It’s almost impossible for the rich to get into the Kingdom of God!”
This amazed them. So Jesus said it again: “Dear children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the Kingdom of God. 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.”
The disciples were incredulous! “Then who in the world can be saved, if not a rich man?” they asked.
Jesus looked at them intently, then said, “Without God, it is utterly impossible. But with God everything is possible.”
Then Peter began to mention all that he and the other disciples had left behind. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.
And Jesus replied, “Let me assure you that no one has ever given up anything—home, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or property—for love of me and to tell others the Good News, who won’t be given back, a hundred times over, homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land—with persecutions!
“All these will be his here on earth, and in the world to come he shall have eternal life. But many people who seem to be important now will be the least important then; and many who are considered least here shall be greatest there.”
The Living Bible copyright © 1971 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.