They have no God no perceived good… but money

Portrait of Amiri Baraka. Inspired by the life and works of Amiri Baraka.

“No camels thru no needles eyes “🐫
PE 0032 Amiri Baraka
Oil on Wood. 53x44in. 2022

Amiri Baraka was an American writer of poetry, drama, fiction, essays and music crit. He was the author of several poetry books and taught at numerous universities. He was also a founder and chairman of the Congress of African People, a national Pan-Africanist organization with chapters in fifteen cities.

Inspired by an excerpt from a speech called “Money” recited by Baraka I began breaking down the poem into parts so that they were easier to analyze. He began the poem talking about profits and prophets without a clear distinction between the two. From there he goes head first into a rant about all of the important mediums and resources that have been twisted into money making machines. He walks us through the simple and not so simple ways that we’ve been slowly conditioned to associate importance with wealth and a things ability to have a return on investment.

CREATIVITY IS NOT FROM EUROPE. CREATIVITY IS NOT FROM EUROPE. CREATIVITY IS NOT FROM EUROPE. CREATIVITY IS NOT FROM EUROPE.

PE 0032 Amiri Baraka (Detail)
Oil on Wood. 53x44in. 2022

THEY HAVE NO GOD. NO PERCEIVED GOOD … NOTHING THEY WOULD LIVE FOR OR DIE FOR… BUT MONEY

My favorite line from his poem comes a little after the halfway mark where he says “Jesus said it was impossible for a rich man to be good. No camels passed through no needles eyes”

PE 0032 Amiri Baraka (Detail)
Oil on Wood. 53x44in. 2022

So basically, the New Testament says that Jesus had just finished an illustration about welcoming children into the Kingdom of heaven. Shortly after a wealthy man approached Jesus and asked, “How do I inherit eternal life?” Jesus tells the man to keep the Lord’s commandments. The man claims to have kept the commandments; however, he still felt like he lacked something. He asked what else he could do to secure his passage into the kingdom of heaven. This is where the story takes a slight turn and Jesus replies, “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 wealthy man was clearly upset after hearing this because he had great wealth, so much wealth he walked away disheartened. Not yet ready to part ways with his precious possessions. Jesus looked to his disciples and said, “Truly I tell you; it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. For, 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.” -Matthew 19:21-23.

PE 0032 Amiri Baraka (Detail)
Oil on Wood. 53x44in. 2022

Now if you’re like me you’re probably questioning everything and since camels are far too large to pass through the eye of a needle. What does he mean by this? For starters Jesus isn’t saying that the rich won’t be allowed into the kingdom of heaven. He was simply pointing out to his disciples some of the obstacles that lie in their way on the road to salvation.

Notes from Amiri’s poem on “Money” in Sketchbook

Scholars suggest that he may have been saying something different. Since, the Aramaic word for rope is kamilon, and the Greek word for camel is kamelon, which appears in the verse. Some scholars say that the word was misspelled, and so Jesus may have been making an analogy to threading a thick rope through the eye of a needle, not a large animal. In other words, He may have been referring to something extremely difficult, but not impossible. (McMahan)

PE 0032 Amiri Baraka (Detail)
Oil on Wood. 53x44in. 2022

Now I interpreted this passage slightly different from the scholars. Relying on scripture breakdowns from my upbringing as a Seventh Day Adventist. I see the needle or the “eye of the needle” as a gate. A gate is responsible for regulating not only who can enter a new space but also the rate at which they can enter. There are always requirements when passing through gates. Some requirements are as simple as knowing how to operate said gate, and some are little more difficult and might require laws or commandments. Now the Camel is called the “Ship of Desert” because it was the only means of transportation found in deserts. The body of a camel has undergone various modifications that help it to survive in the hot and dry conditions of the deserts. The desert acts as the landscape for our lives. The camel is meant to represent our bodies or “the container for our souls”. Our souls being all that we will need on judgement day. So, when we arrive at the needle will we have what it takes to pass through the gate? Or will you like the wealthy man be enamored by his worldly possessions and be denied at the gate?

PE 0032 Amiri Baraka
Oil on Wood. 53x44in. 2022

Work Cited
McMahan, Wendy. “What Is the Meaning of ‘a Camel Going through the Eye of a Needle’?” Food for the Hungry, 20 Apr. 2020, https://www.fh.org/blog/camel-through-eye-of-needle-meaning/.

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