Dan Popp
Bleating hearts
Red letters for red liars
By Dan Popp
July 15, 2010

Of the few scriptures that could be taken out of context to support the notion of Christian socialism, Jesus' prophecy about The Sheep and the Goats may be the most ill-suited.

The 25th chapter of Matthew's gospel contains three sections, all teachings by Christ. Though it ends with The Sheep and the Goats (which is not a parable), it begins with the parable of The Wise and the Foolish Virgins (verses 1-13), and continues with the Parable of the Talents (vv. 14-30).

Now, as you remember, the five wise virgins (or bridesmaids), took extra oil to the wedding feast, just in case — well, just in case something — you never know about these Middle Eastern weddings. Their foolish BFFs assumed that their own assumptions were correct, and took the corresponding amount of lamp oil. While the prudent are being admitted to the party, the imprudent are trying to buy oil in the middle of the night, and they end up locked outside in the dark.

This parable is about as anti-Leftist as it could be. The wise young ladies didn't share their extra oil with their ditzy friends. And the bridegroom did not force them to provide a bailout. The foolish learned what Jesus expects His hearers to learn: There are consequences for unwise choices, and to a very uncomfortable degree, you yourself will pay them.

Or, "To each according to his needs" — NOT!

The middle third of Matthew 25 is the Parable of the Talents, revealing that God, more like Trump than Trotsky, will reward people differently, based on how they've leveraged their spiritual assets. So at least 2/3 of this chapter proclaims that the Kingdom of Heaven runs on anti-redistributionist, pro-capitalist principles. What about the prophecy that makes up the final third?

    But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

    Then the King will say to those on His right, "Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me."

    Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?"

    And the King will answer and say to them, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me."

    Then He will also say to those on His left, "Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me."

    Then they themselves also will answer, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?"

    Then He will answer them, saying, "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me." And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46 NASB)

I've searched this passage in dozens of different translations for any hint of government, and I can't find one. The word "nations" in the clause, "And all the nations will be gathered before Him," represents the Greek word ethnos. According to Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, this term originally conveyed the idea of "multitudes." The NASB most often translates it "Gentiles" (93 times, compared to 68 times rendered "nation/nations").

What are being judged before this throne are not sovereign states and their social welfare programs, but the diverse peoples of the earth — as individuals. (Note the same use of ethnos at the end of Revelation 5:9) Government is not even in the picture.

Over and over Jesus says to the sheep, you gave, you clothed, you invited... never, community organizers pushed, Congress taxed and spent, the President speechified. Since this confusion between giving and taking, between private charity and political coercion, seems to underlie every barbarian claim of scriptural support, maybe it's worth stating the obvious.

King David spelled out the biblical understanding of giving in a single phrase. A man named Araunah wanted to donate his land, as well as sacrificial animals, for an altar David was proposing to build. "However, the king said to Araunah, 'No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price, for I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God which cost me nothing.' " (2 Samuel 24:24a; cf. 1 Chronicles 21:24) I can't give something I don't own.

It's impossible for me to give a drink with water from your faucet. If I buy a meal for a homeless person with your credit card, what exactly have I given? Since there's no other way for the government to "give" than to take a good from someone who has earned it, the redistribution is not a gift; the judgment of The Sheep and the Goats cannot apply.

To whom does it apply?

This passage should provoke awe and introspection in anyone who claims faith in Christ. None of us has reason to boast of what he's done for God. But this prophecy should bring shame, if not absolute terror, to most people on the Left. "Liberals" are substantially less liberal with their own money and time than are conservatives. It is statistically likely that the person using these verses to preach a socialist Jesus gives less to charity than the "greedy" right-winger he's addressing. If the Judge of the Universe is expecting freewill donations from individuals instead of coercive public programs, the red liar is on the wrong side of the prophecy — the wrong side of Christ.

© Dan Popp


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