Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A strange passage

This passage has always confused me:

31 "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then 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. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' 40And 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.'

41"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. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I 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.' 44Then 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?' 45Then 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.' [Matthew 25:31-45]

The verse is discussing the final judgement, where each one will give an account of his actions. It is so amazing that God is so concerned with the works of an individual. For even though we are not saved by our works, our works are a mandatory fruit of our salvation by grace through faith.

People always use the chair example of faith: Faith is the belief that a chair will hold you. But if you read James, you will realize that faith that does not actually sit on the chair is not saving faith. It is an amazing correlation between faith and works.

And James ties into the above verses very well. Why would God tell us that true believers wouldn't even realize they are doing good? How confusing! True believers' are not even aware of their kind actions towards one another! They must be driven by some other drive than the work itself! They do not work for the reward, otherwise they would say 'I must do my good deed for the day!'

But what benefit are these verses? They are not instructive, since we can only know what side of the fence we fall after the judgement. Rather, these verses form a rather dark mirror: they can only make us shake at the presence of the Lord. They are to get us to fear Him who can cast your soul into hell (Jesus' words, not mine). The reason is that only the true convert does not count his good deeds. Only the real Christian does good things without seeking reward (in heaven or earth), but simply because it is his nature.

That is a scary thought. I fail all the time in this area. I pray for mercy, and I pray that my left hand does not know what the right is doing, and that it is good.

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