Monday, November 5, 2012

The Teachings of Jesus (VI), Week 45: Jesus' authority challenged - Judgment Day (25:31-46)

Today, we enter our last passage of Scripture in this nearly year-long series. And although I am actually writing this months before it will publish, I am already bittersweet. For I have learned a lot through this study; but more on that next week.

This week, we come to the final passage, in which Jesus talks about Judgment Day. Now you can see this in one of two ways: either it is actually a part of last week's parable (the concluding statement), or it is a separate prophesy that the parable of lsat week built up to. I am not sure which it is, so I separated it out; either reading would be, practically speaking, the same I think.

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, hten He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on the right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.'

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

(Matt 25:31-46)

The primary point of this entire chapter is clearly, as David Guzik's commentary states, about the dangers of indifference. The foolish virgins were indifferent to the return of the Lord, and thus did not get the oil (Spirit) that they needed. The lazy servant was indifferent to the return of the Lord, and thus did not do anything with what He had been given by God. And here, the wicked are indifferent to the people around them whom they could have helped.

Those judged as "good" here are not actually necessarily more righteous outwardly, but inwardly: because when it came to a type of service that they cannot get rewarded for (helping the needy, with none around to see it), they helped. This is a great benchmark of how "real" your faith is, and it ties all the way back to the beginning of this year, when Jesus talked in the Sermon on the Mount of doing things in secret: are you doing good works so that you will look good on the outside, or because you have a heart of love on the inside?

The faithful person does acts of service not because they are obliged or because they are being watched, but because they love those around them. If you love God and you love your neighbor, then you will want to help the poor and the needy. You will want to make someone's life better in some tangible way.

Are you the kind of person who cares about others and wants to help them? Wants to make their lives better, at your own expense? Is someone else's life more important than your vacation? Is the homeless man on the side of the road more important than the five dollars in your wallet?

We may not have done much right as parents, but one thing we have done well is plant a seed of generosity in our kids. You cannot drive past a beggar on the roads without my sons wanting to give them something. I have seen them sacrifice everything that they have saved up to buy mosquito nets for kids in Africa. I have seen them make big donation piles of really good toys, favorite toys, to give to kids who do not have any. They love it. One of their favorite parts of Christmas in our home (which will be taking place this month), is the cleaning out of closets. Before we do any Christmas shopping, we think about what good, fun things we can give to kids who do not have any. They love this concept (more than their parents, actually!--sometimes we struggle to honor their gift instead of keeping it and putting it in the attic for sentimental reasons!). I hope and pray that this stays with them as they age.