What does it mean when the Savior said that it is easier for a camel to fit thru the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?
The example given by the Savior, that 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, produced the desired effect of incredulity upon his disciples. When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? The statement of the Savior was in response to the answer of the rich young man to the Savior’s instruction to sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. The young man went away sorrowing for he was very rich. All those who love their riches more than they love the Savior will eventually “go away sorrowing.”
We must understand the scripture in the context in which it was given. The young man was challenged to choose between his riches and the Lord. He made an unfortunate choice. This was impressed on the minds of the disciples by the statement in question, and when his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?
Does this mean that in actual fact those who are wealthy cannot achieve salvation? By no means! If we look at the above scripture in light of other scriptures, we can quickly understand that salvation is based on purity, not on poverty. In the Book of Mormon, Jacob gives this wise counsel-
Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good–to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted (Jacob 2:17-19).
It is well to consider here that in distributing our goods to others, we should not do so not that we may become poor like unto them, but that they may be rich like unto [us]. Thus, helping others is not always an easy process. The idea is to help them, not just to dole out money to them. Further, our motivation must be pure. In giving to others it must be motived by our love for our Father’s children, rather than as a means of soothing our own conscience, or of complying with expectations of society. Henry Drummond commented in his beautiful little treatise entitled “The Greatest Thing In The World,” that
“It is a very easy thing to toss a copper to a beggar in the street; it is generally an easier thing than not to do it. Yet Love is just as often in the withholding. We purchase relief from the sympathetic feelings roused by the spectacle of misery, at the copper’s cost. It is too cheap-too cheap for us, and often too dear the beggar. If we really loved him we would either do more for him, or less.”