Monday, February 18, 2013

Sheep and Goats

In today's Gospel, we are warned of the standard against which we will be judged:
Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his 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, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, 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, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.’

Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’

And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

--Matthew 25:31-46

It is not enough to believe that Jesus Christ is Lord. We must act like it. Today.


  1. It seems to me that the lesson has very little to do with whether or not anyone is any Lord, and one's condition of belief, but everything to do with charitable values.

    It seems counterproductive to me to frame those values in such a spectacularly punitive manner. How are we to understand that?

    - Val

  2. Val,
    This deserves a longer response! In the meantime before I can write that response, let me try to briefly answer here:

    You surely remember the long thread about Hell in Leah Libresco's combox. Some of my contentions in that thread, IIRC, were that Hell exists (whether we like it or not) and that creatures can choose Hell by choosing to be the sorts of persons who are consumed by vice.

    Assuming Hell's existence, Christ is not especially punitive in warning us about it. It's a warning about an imminent danger, not a choice of how to "frame" a message about charitable works.

    To be sure, charity can be and has been exhibited without belief in Christ's divinity. Atheists, e.g., have been involved in many humane endeavors.

    The Gospel message here is not "Charity is good; go do some charity." The Gospel message is closer to "If you cannot reforge yourself into the sort of person who lives in service to the needy, then you will not be fit for Heaven. If you are not fit for Heaven, then your soul will necessarily sink into Hell, just as surely as a lead weight dropped into the sea will sink rather than float. So whether you have sociological reasons to be 'pro-charity' or not is irrelevant. It is the simple fact of the matter that your soul will suffer if you do not do the work of growing into a caring, giving person."

    Anyway, that's less an answer than a bunch of hand-waving in the general direction of an answer. My post for tomorrow on "aphesis" points in the same direction, I think.

    With apologies for my continuing time limitations, and hopes of answering more adequately when (if?) things settle down, I remain deeply grateful that you're part of the conversation here. For one thing, having people who are a lot smarter than me around helps me with the valuable spiritual growth task of acquiring humility!

  3. > ...people who are a lot smarter than me...

    That's kind, but untrue.

    - Val