Tuesday, July 12, 2005

On Weeds and Goats

The Lord has told many parables on the Kingdom of God. Quite a few of them have to do with The End, or at least point to it. At The End, what do we find? There's going to be a separation, a sifting, a gathering and a discarding. Today's universalist or politically correct Bible-reinterpreters don't like these parables of the Kingdom. Jesus didn't offer them for our like or dislike, however, but simply as an expression of the truth and an admonition to embrace it.

In the parable of the weeds and the wheat, we see that among the wheat (the "children of the Kingdom") an enemy has sown weeds ("the children of the evil one"). The owner of the field chose not to uproot the weeds before harvest, lest the wheat go with them. But at harvest time, the weeds will be separated from the wheat, the former going to the fire and the latter into the master's storehouse. We might wonder, perhaps, at the wisdom of letting the children of the evil one flourish along with the children of the Kingdom. St John Chrysostom reminds us that there is still hope that in time the weeds will become wheat through repentance and thus not have to be burned. But St Augustine warns us (lest we become complacent) that the wheat can also become weeds through sin and negligence, and thus lose their place in the Master's glory. Anyway, there will be a separation in the end.

The Lord also told us quite explicitly about a separation that will happen at the Last Judgment, this time using the image of sheep and goats. The sheep in this case are the citizens of Heaven and the goats the citizens of Hell. (I wonder if that is why the goat's head is a satanic symbol, and why devil worshipers sacrifice goats. Perhaps it goes even farther back into pagan mythology.) Those who served Christ in their brothers and sisters will be numbered among the saved sheep, while those who neglected or hurt Christ in their brothers and sisters will be numbered among the damned goats. Anyway, there will be a separation in the end.

I could have added "flotsam" to the title of this post, because there is still another parable about casting a net into the sea and dragging in all sorts of stuff, both valuable and worthless. There's going to be a sorting, and the good stuff will be kept while the bad stuff will be thrown out. Obviously, as the parable makes clear, the good stuff is good people and the bad stuff is bad people. The angels will do the sorting, and the trash bin is an everlasting fiery furnace. Anyway, there will be a separation in the end.

The message is clear. It really matters what we believe and how we behave in this life. How we live is how we will die; what we make of ourselves is what will be manifest for all eternity. We can be golden wheat, unblemished lambs, or treasures of the sea -- or we can be toxic weeds, evil old goats, or useless flotsam. Choose what kingdom of which you'd like to be a citizen; choose whose child you'd like to be. Consider carefully; it's the most important choice of your life.