Narrow the Gate

I worry that few will make it into heaven


Faith Virtue

At the head of my favorite exercise trail, which goes deep into the wooded back hills, stands a grove of trees maybe a hundred feet tall and aged that many years. A few weeks last autumn, I noticed people collecting things on the ground and stuffing them into satchels. They were harvesting a thick blanket of pecan nuts. “Good for arthritis,” one bent old man said.

I must have passed under those gigantic trees a hundred times, ignorant of what they produced. A few sprouted seedlings poked through the brown leaf cover; far fewer than what I would expect from thousands of nuts shed each year. But that pecan grove has its enemies: squirrels, birds, shade, mildew, rocky ground, drought, and humans. By eating delicious pecans, we prevent new trees from growing. But despite the odds, a few survive.

As I observed this harvesting parable, it instructed me that of the hundred or so billion human beings that have been born of flesh and blood, few have been spiritually reborn. Our physical survival rate as a species, enhanced by technology, fails to account for souls saved. I suspect far more is expected of homo sapiens than sprouting and raising babies.

Like in that pecan grove, we all face daunting hazards that prevent our spiritual rebirth. Distractions squirrel away our free time, a job’s drudgery just to feed the belly dulls the mind. We rot in the shade of a towering mentor and fail to mature. The ravenous peck at us. Procrastination mildews our good intention to achieve great things. So-called friends with disparaging words pound us into nut-meal and have us for dinner. Few can survive that gauntlet.

Piled atop all those perils, the urgings of our flesh and the clamor of the world distract us from God. The flesh wars against the Holy Spirit. But despite the daunting odds, a few souls survive to win the crown of eternal life.

Do we have any idea how few? I wonder if statistical curves observed on earth would apply to heaven. Customer response to overtures such as direct-mail advertising hovers in the low single digits, about 3% in my experience in real estate. The Pareto Principle indicates that the wealthy upper class—individuals of extreme high net worth—averages 1-3% of the population.

Nature’s culling phenomenon is found everywhere and may well apply to heaven’s strict salvation parameters. I worry that so few will make it into heaven. As Christ said, “Narrow the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and few there are who find it” (Matt 7:14).


Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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