What Really Matters
*The Bottom Line - The Bare Necessities*
The Sheep and the Goats. Matt.25:31-46
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on the left.
"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. 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, 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.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did you we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or in needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
"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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was in prison and you did not look after me.'
"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?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
Is this the final judgment where God considers this the ultimate criteria for being part of Heaven for all eternity? Perhaps a person doesn't know much about theology and may not even have much of a relationship with God or even know God as he really is, but somehow the person has completed part or most of the basic acts of kindness and concern described above. He treats his neighbor and fellowman with deeds of compassion, and may not even realize the importance of it all, that he is fulfilling an important aspect of living life as it should be lived. This seems to be all important, because the final result, whether to the good or to the bad, has eternal consequences. When Jesus comes to render the verdict of The Sheep and the Goats, the eternal destiny of each will be finalized.
The Seven Woes. Matt.23:13-37
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of Heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.
"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by an oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! Which is greater; the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred?' Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by Heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices - mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law - justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and the outside also will be clean.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!
"You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on Earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord'."
The Six Woes. Luke 11:37-53
When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised.
Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greeting in the market places.
"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."
One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."
Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them. So you testify that you approve of what your forefathers did; they killed the prophets, and you build their tombs. Because of this, God in his wisdom said, ' I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.
"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."
When Jesus left there, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, waiting to catch him in something he might say.
The "Woes" are directed at religious leaders in positions of authority who do not have a very good track record. They are incompetent and lack a true understanding of right and wrong, and they are locked into traditions of never questioning why they do certain things. The "Woes" are lasting rebukes to worthless and meaningless acts that have eternal consequences.
It really doesn't matter whether:
- You are a minister, a preacher, a priest or an evangelist
- You are the church organist, the choir director or a choir member
- You are an elder, a deacon, an usher or the church janitor
- You have duties in the church office during the week
- You are the greeter at the door every week
- You give your time and efforts to yearly church programs
- You have perfect attendance all year long
- You tithe your income and give generously to the church
- You own your house, your business, your real estate holdings
- You have a six digit bank account balance or none at all
Being successful according to your own or other people's standards really doesn't matter with God - it doesn't cut any ice, and it doesn't prove anything either. Do you feel blessed by God because you have attained a kind of "greatness" that is not seen in others? Do you consider yourself a notch or two above your contemporaries when comparing yourself to them? If you claim to be blessed by God for all of the things you have acquired and accomplished, remember this: the same sun shines on everyone, and the same identical rain falls on everyone too! So, what makes you feel superior to others you think are inferior? The answer, of course, is selfish pride. King Nebuchadnezzar gloated in his pride: "ls not this the great Babylon I have built?" (Daniel 4:30). Seven years of living like an animal was the result of King Nebuchadnezzar magnifying and glorifying himself. But God is Good! Nebuchadnezzar's sanity was restored and he then honored the King of Heaven "because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble." (Daniel 4:37).
When all of the "Woe to you" rebukes are read and heeded, a different attitude within a person's mind can take place, and perhaps, even like King Nebuchadnezzar, sanity and a right mind can be restored to individuals. Such is similar to what happened to The Prodigal Son who "came to his senses" while in the pig pen (Luke 15:17), and was happily received back into the family he had earlier chosen to leave.
The man who was possessed by an evil spirit named Legion (Mark 5:1-20) was of such physical strength that no one could subdue him, but Jesus cast the evil spirits out of him and into the herd of pigs that ran down to the lake and drowned. And then, what happened to the once demon-possessed man? The town people found him dressed, but were afraid of what Jesus had done because all of the pigs were lost. Jesus healed the once-possessed man who was then qualified to tell his family and the town people of Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him because he was "in his right mind." (v.15).
But what about:
The Ten Commandments
The Two Greatest Commandments: Love God and Love Your Neighbor.
The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Faith, Hope, and Love
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, ... etc.
Don't they count? Aren't they worth anything?
Well, of course, they all mean much and have good intentions with good results, but Jesus' teachings of The Sheep and the Goats and all of the "Woes" tend to bring out new considerations as to "What Really Matters".
Is wealth a sign of God's blessing?
"No," said Jesus. "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God."
The Love of God.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him,
how can the love of God be in him?
1 John 3:17
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