Our passage for this blog is Matthew 25:31-46. Those with Bibles may open then, otherwise, utilize the wonders of biblegateway.com! Either way, you may recall it as "The sheep and the goats." It was our ending passage for The. of Poverty this week, oddly connected with Pslam 82. I won't participate in such theological gymnastics myself, and will be instead focusing on Jesus' words.
I'll ignore the many questions that can arise with the first verse, and skip to the next fascinating introduction. The gathering of the goyim, the nations. A Jewish reader would immediately recognize this as "everyone but me." Everyone not Jewish. If you want to read this through Christian eyes, even so, the term is used for the unbelievers, those outside of the covenant. As an Atheist, I can safely include myself in this group brought before the King (? ).
We are then divided into two groups, The two groups are, basically, those who participate in acts of social justice:
" For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me"
I can imagine the Atheist and Agnostic here chiming in, like those here in the passage do, and asking "when did I (or didn't I) do that for you? I never saw you, heck I don't even know who you are!"
We are then informed that the "I" is actually the "least of these brothers of Mine." Basically, without going into it, the people around you who exhibited the above needs.
It's a good sermon indeed, and preached often! I, however, would find this to be an immediate soteriological problem.
The problem? These acts of social justice and care for the poor is what the nations are being judged upon. Not "did you say the sinner's prayer?" not "did you believe I existed?" not "did you love me with all your heart, soul, and strength?"
This shouldn't at all be a problem if we look at the Old Testament. We see many cases of YHWH being a god actively concerned for the poor. All throughout psalms we see a god who rises up to defend the needy and put low the rich and greedy. Throughout the Torah we find laws bent towards taking care of the orphan, widow, and sojourner. Laws such as do not glean to the edges of your field, with the purpose of leaving behind sheaths for the poor (see Ruth for an example). If anything, God doesn't seem to give a hoot whether you believe in Him or not when it comes to the poor. People in the OT are not judged for unbelief, but for acts of unrighteousness. I'll add here that tsedek, righteous in Hebrew, is synonymous with charity!
So where do we get this idea that those who inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world are those who believe Jesus is God, believe there is a God, and believe that Jesus died on a wooden cross as the only way to forgive you of your sins and thus let you into said kingdom?
Well... that's another blog in itself! A fun one at that. But for now, and with this passage, it seems quite clear how we are eternally judged. And me? I have no problem with that.