Sunday favorites

Matthew 25:31-46

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?”

And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

Then he will say to those at his left hand, “You that are accursed, depart from me 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 nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

Then they also will answer, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”

Then he will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just 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.’

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Or, from the gospel according to the Firefly staff:

    -

    JAYNE: I’m sorry, okay?  Be reasonable.  What’re you taking this so personal for? It ain’t like I ratted you out to the feds.

    MAL: Oh, but you did. You turn on any  of my crew, you turn on me. But since that’s a concept you can’t  seem to wrap your head around, then  you got no place here.  You did it to me, Jayne. And that’s a fact.

  • http://twitter.com/EyeEdinburgh EdinburghEye

     That’s one of my favourites. I think, taken literally, it is possibly the scariest and most intense passage in the Bible.

  • Kylroywilson

    Funny how none of the “high view of scripture” folks seem to take this passage literally.

  • Ursula L

    Sadly, I’ve seen people use this to reason against government programs to feed the hungry, care for the sick, etc.  The reasoning being that if the government does it, individuals can’t, and the point is not the feeding of the hungry or the care of the sick, but the need for people to be feeding and caring in some way in order to gain salvation.  

    Any potentially successful project to feed the hungry and care for the sick so that they are no longer hungry or sick is therefore bad because they won’t have hungry and sick people to use as their stepping-stones to salvation. 

  • EllieMurasaki

    …but the government is us.

    I may not be personally involved in providing food for people on food stamps or free-or-reduced-price school meals, but they are getting food via programs that I support politically and with my tax dollars, therefore I am feeding the hungry. And much more to the point, the hungry are being fed. What’s the problem here?

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    I may not be personally involved in providing food for people on food stamps

    Do you pay taxes, do you support such programs at the voting booth?

    Yes, I see from the rest of your comment that you do.

    As far as I’m concerned you’re personally responsible for me not going hungry.

  • veejayem

    Beautiful verses. I should be, and am, inspired by them ~ but I also take a sneaky pleasure in the thought of RTCs finding out that Judgement Day isn’t the smug schaudenfreude-fest they fondly imagined it was going to be …

    “For Lord, I have not been as other sinners, even as that welfare mother raising her brats  on food vouchers …”
    “Oh, like the woman enjoying roast turkey and ice-cream with Our Lord right at this moment? You’d better start walking, there’s a lot of stairs down.” 

  • centaurie

    What a coincidence…my grandmother”s pastor did his sermon on Micah 6:8. It was lovely.

  • Lori

    There’s also the fact that, as we’ve talked about many times, government programs don’t actually prevent anyone from helping the poor. Nowhere in the passage does it say that salvation is dependent on being the sole source of aid to the poor, it only says that Christians are supposed to provide aid.

    The problem obviously being that actually reading the passage takes away any excuse one could have for not helping. Can’t have self-professed Christians actually put in a position of having to follow the book they use to beat the rest of us with. That just won’t do at all.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Sufficiently effective government programs would remove the need for aid to the poor, though. If the government ensures that everyone has enough to eat, there are no hungry to feed. If all health care is paid for by the government, there are no sick to take up collections for in order to make sure they can get their six-figure surgery. If the government ensures that minimum wage is a living wage and everyone who can be employed full-time is and everyone who can’t be employed full-time has supplemental income (Social Security, disability benefits, unemployment benefits, paying stay-at-home parents to raise their kids, whatever), or just writes a monthly check to every adult to cover basic expenses for that person for that month with extra to every custodial parent to cover basic expenses for the child (such that if both parents have custody all the time, or they’re doing the week-on-week-off nonsense, both parents get half the money for the child, and if one parent has custody every other weekend then that parent gets 1/7 of the money and the other parent 6/7, and if only one parent has custody then that parent gets all the money regardless of what rights the other parent may have), then there aren’t any poor at all. Not in that government’s jurisdiction, at least.

    Gonna be a long while before we’ve got government up to that level of functioning. Be a lot shorter if people would collectively realize that alleviating and eliminating poverty is a governmental function and that ‘the poor you will always have with you’ was not in fact a command.

  • Lori

    Eh, no government is ever going to actually eliminate all poverty. Even
    if people had all their basic necessities covered there will always be
    things that would be good or helpful or nice for people to have that
    they are not able to afford and which the government does not provide.

    Even
    if we got serious about much-needed criminal justice reform we’re still
    going to have some people in prison who could use some visits.

    If
    one government did manage to eliminate all poverty and empty its
    prisons there would still be many others that didn’t and therefore many
    people left to help.

    Even if the whole world had universal health care and no prisons there will always be
    people who get sick and some of those people will have little or no
    support system and will therefore need visits and aid for emotional
    support.

    There will always be strangers in need of a warm welcome.

    Sincere Christians are in absolutely no danger of having no one
    to help and when they pretend that they would do such great things for
    the poor if only Big Brother wasn’t  cock-blocking them it just doesn’t
    fly in any way, shape or form.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Fair points all.

  • Don Gisselbeck

    The interpretation favored by sycophants of the predator class is that “family” (or adelpoi) verse 40 refers only to disciples http://thirdmill.org/newfiles/kno_chamblin/NT.Chamblin.Matt.25.31-46.pdf
    for example.

  • stardreamer42

     Showing once again that they don’t view the poor, the hungry, and the sick as real people — only as points to be scored in a game of Status. It’s not about helping others, it’s about winning their own salvation.

    Furthermore,  if it were ever to happen that we as a country were taking sufficient care of our own poor, hungry, and sick by way of promoting the general welfare — what’s to keep anyone from reaching out to help others around the world, who have not our advantages?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     Yep, I’ve seen that one. “No, Jesus didn’t say that we would be judged by how we treat others. He said that others would be judged by how they treat us.”

    I really can’t think of any words to describe that thinking except for evil.

  • LoneWolf343

     I dealt with one of those people last night. I told him that governments are comprised of individuals, and so are covered by any kind of individual mandate. I also told him that the goats are being condemned for neglected the alms, so how bad will it be for those who actively oppose it?

  • Doug E

    I was lay reader this morning, and read that verse. I find it deeply problematic on many levels, not least because it assumes consistent behavior. I certainly have, in many ways, fed and clothed the poor, visited the sick, etc. I’ve also ignored the opportunity to do so on many occasions. I would be very surprised if even Mother Teresa didn’t take a pass, occasionally. And I doubt that there is any more than a tiny percentage of adults who haven’t done some of those things for someone at some time in their life. So who does the parable describe? Who are the sheep and who are the goats? I keep thinking there’s a lost section that says, “then having settled the fate of .0001 percent of humanity, the King shall turn to the inconsistent majority and say ‘What am I going to do with you?’”

    The parable’s grouping with the story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, in which the “wise virgins” refuse to share their oil with the foolish, but are admitted to the banquet, and the Parable of the Talents, in which the cautious slave is punished, doesn’t offer much help, at least not to me.

    The only thing that really makes sense to me today is reading it as the crescendo of the preceding chapter and a half (or so), which deal with doing the work of the Kingdom until the King returns. If you look at it that way, the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats is hyperbole to clarify exactly what the work of the Kingdom is. Though that seems like an awkward fit, it’s the best I can come up with at the moment.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I certainly have, in many ways, fed and clothed the poor, visited the sick, etc. I’ve also ignored the opportunity to do so on many occasions. I would be very surprised if even Mother Teresa didn’t take a pass, occasionally.

    The thing about Mother Teresa? As I understand it, she provided minimal pain medication when she could have provided sufficient pain medication (or if not sufficient for all her patients, then at least more than she was providing), and she did nothing to reduce the incidence of the causes of her patients’ suffering though again it was in her power to do so. She’s Exhibit A of the belief that it’s better to personally reduce people’s suffering a little than to impersonally reduce it a lot and that it’s necessary for some to suffer so that others can achieve holiness. Possibly also of the belief that suffering builds character. She’s got this whole healing-angel mystique, which is what you were referencing I’m sure, but the reputation doesn’t match the reality.

  • Doug E

    I don’t know enough to comment on the specifics of what you are saying, one way or the other. If true, it underscores my larger point that pretty much all of us are a mixed bag.

  • Lori

     

    Possibly also of the belief that suffering builds character. 

    At least in other people, specifically the poor.

    When Mother Teresa got sick she certainly didn’t receive care at one of her own hospitals. She wanted pain killers and a reasonable shot at long-term survival. She thorougly enjoyed being feted and kissed up to by the rich & famous who were taken in by her faux-saintly glow, or at least hoped that the rubes were taken in bv it and that some of it would rub off  on them.

    The continuing vast over-estimation of Mother Teresa’s saintliness is so annoying. The perfect intersection of the worst of religion and the worst of pop culture.

  • EllieMurasaki

    faux-saintly

    Given that saints typically become saints by making a big public fuss about their Christianity (often as an immediate prelude to being martyred for same, and also what happened to Jesus’s saying not to be religious in public?), I don’t think Mother Teresa qualifies as ‘faux-saintly’. Faux-good-person-y, certainly, but that’s not the same thing.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    and she did nothing to reduce the incidence of the causes of her patients’ suffering though again it was in her power to do so

    One major instance was her insistence as good Catholic (that is, loyally following Rome which got her bonus from the hierarchy) against birth control – contrary to what most catholic workers from other orders who actually wanted to help the poor said (most start out obedient to Rome’s doctrine, but once faced with reality, change their mind to what’s needed in real life; then get into trouble with Rome for using and speaking their mind).

    There are other charges: the many donations sent in were badly recorded, no real book-keeping was done (as demanded by law from normal charities), so some people wonder whether this was used as front for money-laundering by the Vatican.
    And one instance of where a very ill Indian person was suffering from pain and the sister attending to her told them “Each pain is a kiss from Jesus” (to which the  Indian replied “Then please tell this Jesus to stop kissing me”) is told as heart-warming anecdote among believers, but seen as callous and cold-hearted among the rest.

    By not providing proper nursing training to the sisters, and spending more time in Europe doing Press than in India, Mother Theresa failed to do proper work.

  • Münchner Kindl

     

    I find it deeply problematic on many levels, not least because it
    assumes consistent behavior. I certainly have, in many ways, fed and
    clothed the poor, visited the sick, etc. I’ve also ignored the
    opportunity to do so on many occasions. I would be very surprised if
    even Mother Teresa didn’t take a pass, occasionally. And I doubt that
    there is any more than a tiny percentage of adults who haven’t done some
    of those things for someone at some time in their life. So who does
    the parable describe? Who are the sheep and who are the goats? I keep
    thinking there’s a lost section that says, “then having settled the fate
    of .0001 percent of humanity, the King shall turn to the inconsistent
    majority and say ‘What am I going to do with you?’”

    First, it’s a parable. By necessity it’s black and white, because that’s how parables work.

    Second, if you read carefully, it doesn’t say “All the time”. It says “you fed me when hungry.” That can mean once or every day.

    It’s similar to the story of the helpful Samaritian, who went the whole mile including paying the tab at the tavern. Today, a Samaritian is somebody who calls an ambulance to let trained professionals take care, or who renders basic first aid. That’s because society has changed and we have different options than people in 1st century Israel had.

    If we include Christian tradition, there are also many folktales and legends of people who go to hell for being mean, nasty, spiteful and never giving to the poor, but are saved by one good deed they did. So helping once is better than nothing. (See also the Jewish saying of “Who saves one life saves the world”).

    Third, There’s general intent and reach of programs and other aspects. If you donate x% of your income each month to long-term programs, but pass the beggar on the street because you don’t know if he’s a con-man, I count that as helping people. If  you can’t donate money, but spend time visiting sick people each week, I count that, too.
    If you vote persistently against programs by the govt. that would help millions of people because you consider them “undeserving poor”, but help once a year in the soup kitchen to fulfill your obligations, then I count that against you.
    If you vote persistently for programs that help the poor, but don’t have the time or energy to help in a soup kitchen, I count that for you.

    There’s also the burn-out-effect: professional helpers, like doctors, nurses, teachers etc. know that they need to sleep and rest, even if people still need their help. (Ideally, you hire enough staff to cover all the time), because a tired or burnt-out doctor is no use anymore.

    The parable’s grouping with the story of the Wise and Foolish Virgins,
    in which the “wise virgins” refuse to share their oil with the foolish,
    but are admitted to the banquet,

    I have a problem with that parable, too. Every other parable would lead me to expect that the virgins act solidaridly and share their oil. I would like to hear a theologian’s take on this (Fred? Hello?). Maybe it’s meant to refer only to the coming kingdom – most modern interpretations say that Jesus saw himself as end-times prophet and that repentance was necessary because the end was coming. (He didn’t expect a Church like Rome, so he didn’t make rules for that).

    and the Parable of the Talents, in
    which the cautious slave is punished, doesn’t offer much help, at least
    not to me.

    I have not yet found a scholar of Koine to get the original meaning of talent besides “a block of metal worth a lot of money” – but I always interpreted it as applying to talents people have, similar to putting your light under a cup. The servant buried his talent, he didn’t use them for the good of the community by “investing” as the others did.
    So I see it as “do what you’re good at, and keep improving yourself in all areas” instead of “leading a small, lazy life without bettering yourself”.

  • Simongren

    I always took this parable’s “the least of these” to mean those people you personally consider “the least of these”.

    Say I have a problem with blondes with blue eyes.   So although I will help everyone else I will not help and may actively hinder blondes with blue eyes.  I may even be so completely against blondes with blue eyes that I question their reason to exist or call for their being herded into camps and left to die (or actively killed).  I may call them names or think of them as sub-human.

    So if I had a problem with blondes with blue eyes, then those would be my “least of these”  and judgement would be about how I had treated the poor, cold, sick, imprisoned and hungry of my personal “least of these”.


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