A sense of fairness or justice rises very early in our lives. I have seen this most recently when watching my grandchildren. They are constantly looking to see that they are being treated with fairness and equity about such pressing matters as to how much orange juice is in their cup as compared to that in their sibling’s glass.
I suppose you could logically argue that the children in the illustration are actually being self-oriented, making sure they are taking care of themselves and not getting short-changed in any way. Call it maybe “the survival of the fittest.” Being motivated from a sense of justice would cause one child to be equally upset if they got “more” than the other and called attention to that. And that does happen with children and with adults as they see the inevitable inequities that exist in a fallen and sinful world.
But in any event, we have some internal wiring that tells us there needs to be fairness and justice. We know in some intrinsic way that wrongdoing should not be tolerated and that action should be taken against those who harm others. And I would argue that this represents our creation in God’s image, and that the existence of the principle within argues for a good and just law-giver and omnipotent judge.
But as the years go by, the injustices about which we grieve have much greater gravity than the ounces of orange juice or the size of the apple pie slice of dessert. We are saddened when the powerful and entrenched people of society take advantage of people who do not have the resources to defend themselves. We boil over internally when we see evil people in a third world country abuse children or murder innocent people for having a different faith or being from a different tribal ethnicity. Human trafficking is a total outrage. Where is justice? How is this allowed to continue? Will these evil people have to pay for their actions in either this world or the next?
We may also feel the injustice of a life taken before its time, of a young life lost to the folly of a drunk driver, a child neglected or beaten by irresponsible bullies in their lives, or an illness that cuts someone down in the prime of life. Where is God when this happens? Why does injustice exist? Is there a time of accounting, and when will it be?
These are the types of questions we will be seeking to address a bit when we look at three different parables this Sunday and in our writings this next week. To be prepared, here are the three parables of interest in this study …
Matthew 25:31-46 — The Sheep and the Goats
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 13:24-30 — The Parable of the Weeds
24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”
Matthew 13:47-50 — The Parable of the Net
47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Randy, you early bird! Like it says in “About Randy Buchman” — “Occasionally I sleep.”
I work at night, so I have an excuse for being up this early … or rather still being up.
I look forward to your exposition on these parables.
On thing that is interesting about the parable of the sheep and the goats — the sins are all sins of omission.
Much of what drives our anger is of course, sins of commission like many of the sins that you just wrote about.
And yet, thinking about the parable of the wheat and the weeds, there is also a need for humility, a need for us to seek God in how we go about addressing evil. While God hasn’t appointed most of us as judges over the world at this time, we might at times have to take a lesson from the parable of the weeds. The parable explains a bit about such questions as to why there might be sin in the church, for example. It might also explain why God doesn’t always unleash retribution on a wicked country, for in that wicked country there may still be righteous people in it.
So, yes we see evil and we might want to confront it wherever it is … but wisdom might dictate that we act with caution and not go blasting and criticizing in such a way as to cause a great amount of collatoral damage and offend people who might not see things the same way we do.
For example, sometimes sincere Christians follow corrupt religious teachers. The Elder John wrote to Gaius and though he commended Demetrius, he said that he was not be recieved by Diotrephes. He did not recommend that Gaius and Demetrius try an attack on Diotrephes. He realized that combatting this powerful sinner in the church would require his personal appearance. Perhaps the conflict that that Gaius would have engendered trying to upend Diotrephes would have done more harm than good.
In any case, it is often necessary to give difficult problems to God.
Here is an off-topic thought about the parable of the net.
And though, this isn’t likely to be part of your message, and it might be just at the reach or out of the reach of theologians, I wonder about the roles that angels play at the resurrection or judgment. The angels will be gathering the righteous and the wicked. And yet scripture also seems to indicate that “we will judge angels”. It does seem that over time (if such a thing exists as we percieve it in eternity) that God will continue to work more and more with us.
There is one more aspect of grief that maybe deserves some attention. We of course can see sins in others. And to some extent Jesus gave some parables that dealt with God being happier about one sinner repenting than many who have no need of repentence.
Yet when should we feel confident about our religious position? And when is it proper for us to grieve over our double-mindedness and other sins?
Let me share a type of sin that I deal with (or am aware of) from time to time. Whether dealing with physical desires, it can even be “love of money” … even if for example I don’t fall for that too much … does it distract me, just enough to take my attention off of what God wants me to do?
We need to focus. Consider the temptations of being a professional sports athlete. These people may or not have high sexual moral purity, but each of them whether they are running, catching, throwing, swinging a bat, they all need to block out the chearleaders and the screaming and taunts of fans in order to do their job. These athletes are aware that if they mess up they will becalled to account by others. (I remember reading a quote from a hockey goalie that went something like this. “How would you like it if every time you made a mistake a big red light lit up and 20,000 booed at you?”
Now we too have a cloud of witnesses in heaven and everything we say or do in secret now will be shouted from the rooftops, according to Jesus. There will be no secrets. Even now there are no secrets kept from God, and what the angels know … it might be open to debate … but it could be a lot.
I love the goalie comment. That will definitely get used somewhere in a sermon before long! And just because a devotional goes up online at an ungodly hour does not mean I did it at that time. There is a way of setting a posting time. Now the secret is out.