Two Ways of the Kingdom of Heaven
Today brought me to Matthew 25, and maybe lately I've been reading too many blogs, because my first thought while reading through the parable of the ten virgins was that in today's politically correct climate, this wouldn't fly. The prudent virgins would be roundly criticized for being unwilling to share their oil with the foolish virgins. We must have equality of results, even if that results in equal failure for all. Yet Jesus utters not a word against the prudent virgins. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like: the Kingdom of Heaven rewards prudence and lets the foolishness of the imprudent fall on their heads.
Then we come to the parable of the talents, with an ending sure to make the politically correct scream in rage: we take away from the servant with the least resources what little resources he has, give it to the servant with the most, and throw the poor servant out the door. The cries of "Oppression!" and "Favoring the Rich!" ring in my ears. The poor guy probably had mental problems: he had a twisted view of the master's character and a horrendous fear of failure. To be fair, the master accepts those problems, but points out that even under those conditions, there was an alternative: handling it over to the bankers who would produce a modest gaim with little risk. His weaknesses are accepted, but aren't allowed to be an excuse for doing absolutely nothing. This is what the Kingdom of Heaven is like: the Kingdom of Heaven rewards responsibility and punishes irresponsibility.
At this point, I can hear the applause rising among the conservative crowd, with assorted rumblings about "character", "responsibility" and "discipline". And that's ok.
The next thing we come to, in the same stream of thought, are the theme verses of the Social Gospel crowd, the judgement of the sheep and the goats. A place in the Kingdom requires reaching out and ministering to the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and those in prison.
Somehow, in our modern world, we at times make these two things opposites, contradictions even. The merest whisp of a suggestion that some of the poor and needy may have gotten that way due to imprudence or irresponsibility elicits rage and condemnation from some people. The assumption that all of the poor and needy got that way due to imprudence and irresponsibility is used as an excuse by others to avoid ministering to them. But neither of these are right. For Jesus, these two sides of the Kingdom are one. There is a place in the Kingdom to say "no" to fools who want us to save them from their imprudence. There is even a place to punish the irresponsible. But there appears to be no place for those who never help the truly needy.