A Christ Teaching on Earning Blessing through Human Service
This is the second of a two-part bible study on Christ’s teaching on the call to compassion. As we discussed in previous bible studies, God creates every person to be his provider assistant and assigns responsibilities to each of us through a call to compassion. Through the parable of the Good Samaritan (first part of the study at This_Link), Christ illustrates the circumstances of a call to compassion and what is expected from the chosen provider assistant. This bible study focuses on the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, where he provides a more general teaching on God’s call to compassion.
A mutual provider-receiver relationship results from God creating every person as his provider assistant. Through calls to compassion, he provides opportunities for every person to be a provider sometimes and receiver at other times. Christ uses the parable of the Sheep and the Goats to describe the responsibilities of a provider assistant, rewards for accepting a call to compassion by performing the assigned service, and punishment for declining the call by denying a service.
HUMAN SERVICE God’s call to compassion is about human service. He assigns tasks to individuals to provide them opportunities to help others. A person earns blessing by providing the service or incurs punishment by declining. As we discussed previously at This_Link, earned blessing and incurred punishment accumulate and coexist as parallel promises from God, which he fulfills at his time, except that he will forgive a promise of punishment if the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness. Christ uses the parable of the Sheep and the Goats to explain that he will judge each of us based on our performance as his provider assistant. People that accept God’s call to compassion by providing services placed in their path will inherit eternal life. In contrast, people that decline the call by denying services placed in their path will inherit eternal punishment.
THREE RELATED PARABLES He presents the teaching through three parables. First, he uses the parable of the Ten Virgins [Matthew 25:1–13] to teach about being prepared. He explains through the parable that we don’t know the judgment day or time: people that are prepared with a record of performing their provider assistant responsibilities will be admitted into the kingdom; but the others will be turned away to eternal punishment. Second, he uses the parable of the Talents [Matthew 25:14–30] to explain that God grants every person capabilities and expects us to deploy and expand the capabilities during our lifetime. Third, he uses the parable of the Sheep and the Goats [Matthew 25:31–46] to explain how God will separate people into two categories at judgment. This bible study focuses on the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
Parable of the Sheep and the Goats
Christ starts the parable with a description of God’s separation of people into two categories: people that accept his call to compassion by performing services placed in their path and people that decline the call by denying the service. He likens the separation to a shepherd separating his flock into sheep and goats. As we discussed in a previous bible study at This_Link, the separation recognizes people that fulfill the purpose of their creation by living in the image of God and those that do not fulfill the purpose because they live an opposite lifestyle that Christ describes as wicked. The righteous, i.e., people that live in the image of God, will inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. The wicked, in contrast, will be condemned to eternal punishment in a fiery furnace prepared for the devil and his servants.
BASIC NEEDS In the parable, he describes human service in terms of basic needs. As we discussed in a previous bible study at This_Link, every human need can be shown to consist of combinations of the basic needs of food and drink, clothing, shelter, protection, and a group of needs that we refer to as community values. By describing human service in terms of basic needs, he includes every need and emphasizes fulfilling the provider-assistant responsibility instead of the specific goods or services provided in a given situation. Therefore, the service that Christ describes through the parable [Matthew 25:35–36 or 42–43] is not limited to the specific needs mentioned but includes every human need. The description in Matthew 25:35–36 could be paraphrased as: I placed a need in your path and you provided for it. Similarly, the description in Matthew 25:42–43 could be paraphrased as: I placed a need in your path and you declined providing for it.
PROVIDER ASSISTANT RESPONSIBILITIES A person’s performance in a call to compassion is judged based on fulfilling or failing to fulfill his/her responsibilities in the call. Christ describes the responsibilities in terms providing [Matthew 25:35–36] or failing to provide [Matthew 25:42–43] for basic needs. The responsibilities include recognizing the need and providing a service to address the need effectively, e.g., “I needed clothes and you clothed me”. A person may recognize a service placed in their path by being attentive and caring enough to determine that there is a need. Having recognized the need, he/she may provide for it directly or by organizing resources needed to perform the service.
FREE OR FOR-FEE SERVICE A person may provide free or for-fee service to address the need. In either case, the service has to satisfy a key requirement of being provided with a pure heart. As we discussed in a previous bible study at This_Link, purity of heart implies your only motivation is to provide for the need. For example, “…when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets…, to be honored by others” [Matthew 6:2]. Similarly, if you are providing for-fee service, having determined that you need to charge a fee in order to provide the service effectively, then purity of heart means you charge a fair (non-exploitative) fee necessary to provide the service effectively. Christ’s teaching in the parable of the Talents indicates that a for-fee service could be an effective way to respond to God’s call to compassion. We will discuss the Christian basis and requirements of for-fee service in a future bible study.
RESPONSIBILITY OF THE NEEDY The needy is the target beneficiary (receiver of service) in a call to compassion. As we discussed previously at This_Link, the social status of a person is irrelevant in the definition of needy. Any person that needs a service that another person is positioned to provide is a needy relative to the service. Christ describes the needy in the parable as “one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine” [Matthew 25:40] and emphasizes that any goods or services provided to the needy has been provided to God.
Thus, he confirms through the teaching that both the provider and receiver represent God in a call to compassion. The provider represents God as his provider assistant whereas the receiver represents God by receiving the service on his behalf. Representing God implies personal responsibilities. The provider fulfills his/her responsibilities by providing the service, whereas the receiver fulfills his/hers by appreciating the provider and appreciating God for positioning the provider to perform the service, as we discuss in more detail in a previous bible study at This_Link.
EARNING BLESSING A person earns blessing by responding to God’s call to compassion [Matthew 25:34]. You earn a blessing each time you fulfill your responsibilities as God’s provider assistant.
The earned blessings accumulate. That is, one accumulates treasures in heaven by providing for needs that God places in their path and every call to compassion provides an opportunity to add to the accumulation. The organization “Banking Blessings Ministry” owes its name to this understanding of Christ’s teaching in the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.
INCURRING PUNISHMENT In contrast, a person incurs punishment by declining God’s call to compassion [Matthew 25:41]. Therefore, there is no neutral behavior in a call to compassion. Accept the call and earn a blessing. Alternatively, you can decline the call by failing to recognize the need or looking the other way after recognizing it. You will incur punishment for declining your responsibility as God’s provider assistant.
ACCUMULATED BLESSING AND PUNISHMENT An earned blessing is a promise from God and will be fulfilled at his chosen time. Similarly, an incurred punishment is a promise from God and will be fulfilled at its time. Whereas God will forgive a promise of punishment if the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness, an earned blessing will be fulfilled to the earner directly or through his/her offspring. As we discussed previously at This_Link, earned blessing and incurred punishment can coexist in parallel and do not trade-off against each other. We don’t know how God will judge a person that arrives at judgment with some of each. However, Christ teaches through the parable of the Sheep and the Goat that a person will inherit eternal life if God sees him/her as one that provides for needs placed in his/her path. In contrast, a person that God sees as one that denies goods or services placed in their path will be condemned to eternal punishment. Christ teaches through the parable of the Ten Virgins that each of us should live in the image of God and, thus, always be prepared to be seen as one that fulfills his/her provider assistant responsibilities. We will discuss the parable of the Ten Virgins in more detail in a future bible study.
OPPORTUNITY TO REPENT Repentance means turning from a life of declining provider-assistant responsibilities to a life of fulfilling the responsibilities. God provides each of us persistent opportunities to make the change, based on Christ’s teaching in the parable of the Weeds (discussed at This_Link).
Summary of What We Learned
Christ uses the parable of the Sheep and the Goats to explain God’s call to compassion in terms of human service. He will separate people into two categories based on responding to his call to service. Those that provide for needs that God places in their path will inherit eternal life whereas those that fail to provide for the needs will be condemned to eternal punishment. A person earns blessing each time he/she accepts God’s call to compassion or incurs punishment each time he/she declines the call. Earned blessing accumulates and will be fulfilled at God’s chosen time. Similarly, incurred punishment accumulates, will be forgiven if the sinner repents and asks for forgiveness, or be fulfilled at God’s chosen time.