Rich Men and Camels :: By Nathele Graham

And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31).

Jesus chose twelve men to be His disciples, but there were many people who followed Him. As Jesus traveled through the land He healed the sick, cast out demons, and forgave sin. People knew about Jesus and liked what they saw. One day as Jesus was surrounded by children, a young man saw Him and felt the pure love that flowed from Him. This man wanted to receive what Jesus had and ran after Him.

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (Matthew 19:16).

The young man was Jewish, and there were many works required by the Law. These works, such as sacrificing animals, ceremonial washings, certain dietary restrictions, circumcision, etc., were done religiously, but none of these works brought eternal life. The Law defined sin and taught obedience, but it has always been faith that brings eternal life. This rich young man was looking for something more he could do to earn his way to heaven, but he needed to see the difference between treasure on earth and treasure in Heaven. He needed to choose which he valued more.

Jesus knew this young man’s heart. Like so many of us, he wanted eternal life, but he wanted it on his own terms. The young man wasn’t a wicked person and just wanted an easy way to live eternally. Jesus gave him a simple answer and told him to keep the commandments. The man wanted details. There were hundreds of written and oral laws, and he wanted to know which commandments were vital for eternal life.

He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Matthew19:18-19).

On the surface these are fairly easy to keep. Remember that, at another time, Jesus said that looking lustfully at a woman is the same as adultery, and anger is the same as murder. The young man was a decent sort and was as good as most of us. I can honestly say that I’m guilty of breaking the commandments, and so are you.

The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? (Matthew 19:20).

He tried to do right, but there was something missing in this man’s life. He had religion but he didn’t have faith.

The commandments which Jesus named were ones that had to do with the relationship between one person and another. Like all of us, the man probably lost his temper on occasion and may even have talked back to his parents once in a while, but on the whole tried to be a nice guy. Was he good enough to get to Heaven? Nobody can be good enough.

The commandments that Jesus didn’t ask him about were the ones concerning his relationships with God. Did he make graven images or take the name of the Lord in vain? Probably the most incriminating one that Jesus didn’t mention was Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3).

Jesus knew this man’s heart, just like he knows your heart and mine. The thing that stopped this man from walking with Jesus and gaining eternal life was his love of the things of this word. The man was rich and he loved it. He could buy friends and all the worldly things he desired. His treasure was on earth.

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Luke 12:34). 

Jesus listed the commandments that He knew were easy for this man to keep, but his relationship with God was another matter entirely.

Now it was time for Jesus to get to the heart of this man’s trouble. What god did this man serve?

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that you hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me (Matthew 19:21).

That’s hard for any of us to think about. I have things that mean a lot to me, and I wouldn’t like to sell them. My things have no great monetary value, but they do have a place in my heart. In light of this account of the rich young man, I have to ask myself, do my “things” have more value to me than God? You might ask yourself that same question.

Earthquakes, tornadoes, and hurricanes can take away our treasures on earth, and we see that happen quite often. Homes, cars, art collections and such are temporary treasures on earth, but our eternal treasure is in Heaven. That treasure is eternal life only found through faith in Jesus Christ. Sadly, the young man was disappointed in the answer Jesus gave him.

“But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:22).

The problem wasn’t that this man was rich. The problem was that his wealth was his god.

Scripture tells us of many rich men who didn’t allow the treasures of this life to come between them and God. Genesis 13:2 says that Abraham was rich, but we also know that he had left his home in order to follow God. His obedience allowed him to become the father of the Jewish nation and to be given the land which will always belong to Israel, no matter how people try to divide it. King David was wealthy, but we have many Psalms he wrote that are evidence of his love for the Lord even in times of great challenge and when he seemingly had lost everything.

Sadly, the young man that Jesus spoke to treasured his wealth more than eternal life.

“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24).

Many commentators say that Jesus was referring to a small passage in Jerusalem. The treasures would have to be unloaded from the camel who then crawled through. Difficult indeed, but not impossible. The treasures would be repacked on the camel, and off he went. The problem with this is that Jesus equated a rich man entering the kingdom of God as an impossibility….you can’t unload your riches at the edge of heaven, wiggle through, then pick up your earthly treasure on the other side. If riches are your god, it’s impossible to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus wasn’t talking about going through a difficult gate, but the impossible task of a literal camel going through a literal eye of a needle. If the riches of this world are more important than service to God, then you have the wrong treasure.

At another time, Jesus had a confrontation with the Pharisees. The subject of the conversation was riches and the Pharisees’ misuse of them.

“And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke16:15).

What we treasure is evident in our actions. If God is our treasure, it will show in our way of life. In this same conversation, Jesus told of a rich man who had everything in life that a man could want. He had treasures in this world, but his heart was far from God. There was also a beggar named Lazarus whose poverty was great. Lazarus could see the wealth of the rich man, but he didn’t covet the wealth; he just desired crumbs.

And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores (Luke 16:21).

Not surprisingly, the beggar died. So did the rich man. Their eternal destinations were very different. The beggar was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom, which was a place of comfort while the soul awaited the Messiah. On the other hand, the rich man was buried and his eternal destiny was not in Abraham’s bosom, but in torments where he still awaits the final judgment before being cast into the lake of fire. Make no mistake; whether you’re rich or poor, the choice you make today of accepting Christ for salvation or rejecting Him is an eternal choice on your part.

The rich man chose wrong during his lifetime, and when he died he knew it was too late for him. The suffering he felt was multiplied by the fact that he knew he had family still living who could make a better choice than he had. The man wanted Abraham to send Lazarus to his family.

For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment (Luke 16:28).

He didn’t beg Abraham to get him out of Hell; he knew he had made wrong choices in life. He did desire that his brothers didn’t make the same mistake of rejecting God.

It’s nice to know that the ones we love who have died still think of us. We also have to realize that they cannot contact us. If your Uncle Charlie comes to you from beyond the grave, don’t believe it’s him. Satan will try anything and everything to draw you away from God. The rich man believed that if someone from the dead went and warned his family, they would change their ways. Today we have the entire Bible to warn us, but at the time of this conversation, they only had the Old Testament. That should have been enough to bring them to faith.

“And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:30-31).

If people love this world and the treasures found here, they’ll find it as impossible to enter Heaven as a camel going through the eye of a needle. It can’t be done.

Jesus Christ rose from the dead. And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16:31). There’s no other way.

What is it that stops you from accepting His sacrifice for your salvation? Is there a sin that you treasure more than eternal life? It could be that you, like the rich young man, want to keep some of the commandments but put other gods ahead of God Almighty. You want salvation on your own terms. If so, then you’ll end up like the rich man in torments and find out too late that you should have made a better choice while living on this side of the grave.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

Conform your life to God and don’t try to make God conform to you.

Camels cannot go through the eye of a needle, but that’s easier than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. What’s your treasure? The wealth of this world or eternal life? Only faith in Jesus Christ will bring the lasting riches of eternal life.

God bless you all,

Nathele Graham

Ron and Nathele Graham’s previous commentaries archived at

All original scripture is “theopneustos,” God breathed.

If you’d like to be on my mailing list to receive the commentaries, just drop me an email and let me know.