Mike Kueber's Blog

June 26, 2011

Aphorism of the Week #1 – a camel through the eye of a needle

Filed under: Aphorism — Mike Kueber @ 4:26 am
Tags: , , , ,

Last week, as I was returning to San Antonio from North Dakota, I listened to several conservative talk shows, including Glenn Beck’s.  A couple of Beck’s shows were focused on Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey.

During those shows, Beck and his sycophants exhibited a strong case of man-love for Christie and relied on two clips to justify their love.  One of the clips showed Christie telling off a teacher who had the audacity to challenge Christie’s public-education cuts while sending his kids to Catholic schools.  Christie smugly told her it was none of her business where his kids went to school, but then went on to answer the question.

The second clip was an anti-Christie commercial from New Jersey educators complaining that Christie was a millionaire and that several of his aides were millionaires.  Beck and his wing-men made fun of the second clip by suggesting that perhaps the teachers would feel Christie was better qualified if he and his aides had not achieved financial success (a la Harry Truman).

Although the Beck ridicule is unquestionably valid, I wonder if the commercial is nevertheless effective because a lot of people think that most rich people don’t deserve their wealth.  Such thinking is consistent with my first aphorism of the week:

  • “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

This aphorism is recorded in the synoptic gospels – i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Variations of it can also be found in Judaism (the Babylonian Talmud) and Islam (the Quran).

The saying was a response to a young rich man who had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should keep the commandments, to which the man stated he had done. Jesus responded, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The young man became sad and was unwilling to do this.  Jesus then spoke this response, leaving his disciples astonished.

According to Wikipedia, the “eye of a needle” has been interpreted as a gate in Jerusalem, which opened after the main gate was closed at night. A camel could only pass through this smaller gate if it was stooped and had its baggage removed. This story has been put forth since at least the 15th century, and possibly as far back as the 9th century. However, there is no evidence for the existence of such a gate.

Thus, we are left with two conflicting interpretations of this aphorism – (a) the literal interpretation that the accumulation of wealth conflicts with the biblical value of loving your neighbor like yourself and (b) the modern rationalization that the accumulation of wealth merely creates additional challenges for achieving the kingdom of God.  I’m going with the latter.

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