Christ teaches two elements of the individual responsibility regarding sin. First, do not instigate others to turn away from God. Those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. Because forgiveness requires repentance of all along the chain, repentance by an instigator alone could be insufficient. Therefore, the punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable. Second, do not commit sin, even if instigated by another. Separate yourself from people, things, or events that may cause you to sin. However, in contrast to sin committed by instigating others, repentance from a sin committed by self guarantees forgiveness.
We discuss Christ teaching to understand that the individual responsibility regarding sin has two elements. First, you should separate yourself from whoever or whatever that may cause you to sin. If these are people, separate yourself from them; if things, separate yourself from the things; if events, keep yourself far away from the events. You are individually responsible for any sin you commit, even if the sin is instigated by others. [Matthew 18:8–9]: “If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
Second, you should not instigate others to sin. Instigating another person to sin means doing something that causes a person that believes in God to turn away from God. Turning away from God means turning to sin [Matthew 18:6–7]: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!”
The punishment for instigating another person to sin could be inescapable, because those you instigate may instigate others and chains of more others. In that case, forgiveness would require repentance of all along the chain. Therefore, whereas repentance from sin committed by self means a turn to God and guarantees forgiveness, repentance from instigating another to sin could be insufficient for forgiveness because of the other lost souls along the potential chains of instigated sinners.
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.
Christ uses parables to describe separation of people into two categories based on living in the image of God: the righteous and the wicked.
The righteous are people that live in the image of God, whereby each person is a channel for God’s compassion and conveyor of his image. As a channel for God’s compassion (i.e., God’s provider assistant), a person recognizes needs placed in their path, commits to providing for the need, and perseveres until they succeed: much like the Samaritan in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Being a conveyor of God’s image means providing reasonable opportunity for people to feel the hand of God through your interactions with them. In contrast, the category of the wicked consists of people that decline God’s call to compassion by denying services placed in their path: much like the chief priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Christ describes the categorization through the parables of the weeds [Matthew 13:24–29 and 37–43], the net [Matthew 13:47–50] and the sheep and the goats [Matthew 25:31–46].
ETERNAL LIFE FOR THE RIGHTEOUS He explained through the parables that the righteous will inherit eternal life in the kingdom of God. The wicked, in contrast, will be condemned to eternal punishment in a fiery furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Also, he explained through the parable of the weeds that God offers every person a persistent opportunity to repent from a life of wickedness to a life of righteousness. The opportunity persists until death or final judgment, whichever comes first [Matthew 13:40]. We examine the three parables in this study and use information contained in them and other related teachings of Christ to discuss the meaning of righteousness.