Legend has it that there was a small gate in the wall that surrounded Jerusalem. When they closed the main gate at sunset this small gate, called the “eye of the needle” was the only way you could get in and out of the city. It was only big enough for a human to walk through. If you had a camel and needed to get inside, the camel would have to get on its knees and crawl. That wasn’t an easy task, and Jesus uses it as an example to make His point.
“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.”
It Can Control Us
This scripture always catches people off guard. First, you ask yourself, “Is it impossible for a rich person to go to heaven?” Next, you look at it and wonder how a camel can go through the eye of a needle? Jesus is trying to make a point. Money can get in the way of us following Him. Paul tells us that the desire for money is the root of all evil. If we allow it to consume us, it will make us do things we would’ve never considered before.
Money isn’t evil. It’s neutral. The real issue is our heart. Wealthy people aren’t all evil, but some do evil things to get more money. Jesus is trying to tell us that if we allow the desire to make money become an idol in our life, it will be tough to go to heaven. We can’t serve two masters. We will love one and hate the other.
Eye of the Needle
The best path is to follow Jesus and let Him provide for your needs. Be content with what you have. He who can be trusted with a little can be trusted with more. Pour yourself into things that will have eternal value like learning the word of God, serving others, and being part of a vibrant community of believers. You will find much more joy and satisfaction than chasing after money.
One of the primary responsibilities, when you get married, is to provide for your family. This means the essentials like food, clothing, and shelter. For most people, this is a no-brainer, and we do it willingly. For others, it is a struggle because of the hard-luck that has befallen them. To forsake our families when we are capable of working is one of the lowest acts in God’s eyes.
“But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Paul was big on Christians being responsible. Previously, he had said that if you do not work, you will not eat. Today, we look at a verse directed at the men of the house and their responsibility to provide for their family. If they don’t, it is an act that is equal to denying their faith, and you rank lower than an unbeliever. You can almost sense from the tone of Paul’s words that he is tired of dealing with this issue.
Don’t Be a Drain
Why was Paul so harsh? Some people were sapping off the church, and their families were going hungry due to their laziness. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rules, and the Bible addresses those, but for those who were able, they needed to be out there working to provide. Doing so does more than just put food on the table; it gives a sense of security and safety.
Provide for Your Family
Nothing has changed today. Your role is to provide for your household and beyond. It starts in your home and then extends to your family that doesn’t live with you. They shouldn’t be a burden on the church or others if you can provide for them. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to are too cheap and expect others to do it. According to Paul’s words, they deny the faith and worse than unbelievers. Provide for your family.
I watched a video the other day of a father riding across the United States on his bicycle to raise money and awareness for organ donors. One stop was in Louisiana to meet the person who received his daughter’s heart after her sudden and tragic death. As he put a stethoscope on the man’s heart, he realized that her death gave life to this man. When we look at the cross, we need to understand that Jesus’ death gives us life.
“For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.”
Couldn’t Believe It
Jesus told the disciples several times that He would have to die but that He would rise again. Each time they heard the first part and were so grieved by it that they didn’t hear the second part. Even after Jesus’ death, they forgot His words about His resurrection. It wasn’t till the ladies at the tomb told them, and Jesus appeared to them in the upper room did it dawn on them that He was telling them all along.
Some people have such a hard time with the brutal death of Jesus that it is hard for them to grasp all of the good that came out of it. They acknowledge that Jesus forgives sins and that we are granted eternal life in heaven with Him, but you can tell they wish it could’ve come through other means. The violent death on the cross is too much for them to handle. What they forget is that Jesus went willingly to the cross. No one forced Him.
Jesus’ Death Gives Us Life
Jesus’ death on the cross was necessary. It satisfied the wrath of God against sin in the world. God hates sin, but He loves the sinner and longs to be close to them. It’s the sin that prevents that, and Jesus willingly stepped in and covered those sins and bridged the gap between God and us.
My inbox is full of emails trumpeting how I can become rich in a very short time. They show me how it can be done by selling goods and services, buying properties, to even getting in shape, and having others pay you for your secrets. It’s all about profit and living the high life where no one is your boss. Everyone wants to be wealthy and famous. Paul warns us not to get caught up in these but, instead, practice the disciplines which will produce godliness. These will bring profit for your present life.
“But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
In the Greek and Roman societies during Paul’s time, athletic ability and body image were worshiped. The Greeks had the Olympics and their gods, who were revered for their beauty and strength. The Romans had their emperors and military, which projected power and domination. Paul contrasts that by telling us what is truly profitable, disciplining ourselves for godliness.
People are wasting time chasing after pursuits that will profit us little. Whether it be wealth or physical fitness, those pale compared to what truly profits us, godliness. It’s not that you can’t have health and wealth and be a Christian, but they are nowhere near in importance as godliness. This is where we need to spend time disciplining ourselves.
Profit for Your Present Life
Godliness is the pursuit of becoming more like Jesus. This happens through the disciplines of prayer, reading your Bible, fasting, giving of your money and time, and loving on your neighbor. When we do these over a long period of time, it creates habits that we do without reminding ourselves. Doing these won’t make you better than others or in God’s eyes, but the hope is that they will make you more humble, and that is the pathway to being like Jesus.
I had a teacher who would often say to the class, “opinions are like ears; everyone has two of them.” I would always be one of the few to laugh, not because I got it, but because it was true. Everybody usually has two opinions on the same subject, and they usually contradict one another. If someone asked you about Jesus, what would you say? Would you tell them that He is the Son of God who came to earth to forgive your sins?
And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”
Jesus wasn’t asking these questions for His ego. He was asking them to see if the Disciples would trumpet what others were saying or if they genuinely believed in their hearts that Jesus was the anointed one. Israel had a history of rejecting the people God had sent them. It started with Joseph, then to Moses, King David, the Prophets, and finally, Jesus. Were those Jesus picked going to profess He was the Messiah?
There are a lot of people who would call themselves Christians that would say that Jesus isn’t the Son of God. They would tell you He was a good teacher, did some good deeds like feed the masses, but stop short of calling Him God. What would you say if Jesus asked you? Would you call Him the Christ, or anointed one of God?
What Would You Say?
What we profess must start in the heart. No one likes a phony or fair-weather fan. People are looking for authentic, even if they disagree with them as a Christian know what you believe and be willing to stand for it and proclaim it with your mouth. It might not be popular, but it is the right thing, and God will honor you.
Heard a sad story the other day of how a church split and went to court over who got the church building because an Elder got mad over a boy had gotten a bigger piece of ham at a potluck than he did. Sounds silly, but these issues crop up every day in the church. That is not what Paul intended when he wrote the qualifications of an elder. He was looking for those who desire to do the hard work.
“It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.”
The role that Paul is talking about here is an Elder. The Greek word used here is “episkopos,” which can be used as Elder, Pastor, or Shepherd. It is a person who is one of the overseers, or leaders, or the church. It denotes authority and means that the person has the role of responsibility in the church. The person who aspires to this office desires a good thing.
As you read on in 1 Timothy 3, you will read about the qualifications for an overseer. They are to be above reproach, which means not to have any charges against him, married to one woman, self-controlled, and a good reputation. To be honest, that would disqualify most men in the church. (I know some churches and denominations ordain women elders, but I’m not going to get into that here.) The issue is one of integrity. Most men in the church don’t desire to live a Godly life. That is leaving the church devoid of Godly leadership and examples for the young men to follow.
Desire to Do the Hard Work
If you desire to be an Elder in your church, I want to encourage you to go for it. Commit 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 to heart so that you know the qualifications. Don’t live to meet these requirements, instead live to glorify Jesus and grow closer to Him, and these will become evident to others. The church desperately needs people who aspire to these roles and meet the qualifications.