Anyone who’s taught for more than a day will be confronted by this question. Will this be on the test? It’s really a question of whether or not they need to keep listening. Our students have become testologists. They have analyzed their world and figured out that some things can be safely ignored without consequence. What’s crucial is what ends up on that exam. It’s logical when you think about it. The exam is measurable, and what you measure represents a distillation of what you believe to be important.
So what about us? What’s on our final exam? When we stand at the pearly gates, what are we going to be asked? Seems like a logical question. Why spend all our time and energy preparing to answer questions that will never be asked? If we could only know what was on the exam, we could properly prepare. Just as important, we could safely ignore those things that aren’t on the final exam.
Lucky for you I know what’s going to be on the final exam. As it happens. by shear luck, I found a copy of the exam. I thought about keeping it to myself, but again, lucky for you, God doesn’t grade on a bell curve. Turns out that this old world is sort of a pass/fail class. Anyone who answers the questions can pass. However, what was on the exam was a bit terrifying. Not that it was hard, it just seems that I’ve been studying for the wrong class.
Picture this. We’re all at the final exam. We have our No. 2 pencils sharpened and our cosmic Scantron® papers on our desk. God comes in and instead of passing out the exam – he passes out the grades. It turns out life was the exam and it’s already been graded.
“‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'” Matt. 25: 34-36 ESV
What’s shocking is what isn’t on the exam. Not a single theological question. Go figure. Wow! And after all the time I spent memorizing charts about premillennialism. Huh… Surprisingly, God uses stickers instead of letter grades. But instead of gold stars and smiley faces, the stickers are either a goat or a sheep . Just in case you’re wondering… you want the sheep grade. It goes badly for the goats.
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me o drink, I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.'” Matt. 25: 41-43 ESV
Yikes! Now just like you and me this response from the King violated the goats sense of fairness! They pointed out that he never actually showed up asking for food. water, shelter or even companionship. After all, they’ve studied the hermeneutics of cosmic justice.
“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'” Matt. 25: 45 ESV
I don’t know about you, but before I begin exegesis on “these my brothers and sisters” I’m going to start with feeding and clothing everyone. You know… just in case.
[Editor’s Note: This post, taken apart from other scripture, could imply that our salvation is based on our behavior, or lack thereof, as exercised toward certain groups of people. Is it as simple as that, or can it be interpreted in a way that harmonizes with another scriptural principle, namely that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (eg. Eph 2:8-9)? What do you think Jesus intends our takeaway to be after hearing this parable? For example, are the points of the parable descriptive or prescriptive? You’re invited to comment on this or any other aspect of the post!]