“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all CAUSES OF SIN and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Matthew 13:41-43 (emphasis added)
That phrase caught my attention the other day when I read it in my “quiet time” with God. Not only will evildoers get tossed in the furnace of fire (permanently, by the way), but so will all causes of sin.
Even those of us who know that Jesus died for our sins, while no longer called “evildoers,” still sin. Those causes of sin affect us too. Deeply.
Jesus made this statement to explain a parable about weeds. A farmer (God) sowed good seed (children of the kingdom) in a field, but when no one was looking an evil person (the devil) sowed weeds (children of the evil one) in the same field. Over time, the grain and the weeds grew together.
The farmer’s workers (angels) asked whether they should get rid of the weeds, and the farmer said not until harvest time (the end of the age), because when the plants are young, if you rip up the weeds, you’ll ruin some of the good seed too. Let’s wait until harvest time when all of the plants are mature, the farmer said; then they can be separated safely. (Mat. 13:24-30, 36-43)
In these days on Earth, the “good seed” and the “weeds” are living side by side. Their roots intertwine; they affect each other. Sometimes, sad to say, it’s difficult to tell them apart.
When the end of the Earth comes (and it will come), not only will the “good seed” and the “weeds” be separated, but so will their roots. All “causes of sin” – temptations to do things against God and the acts themselves – will be “thrown into the furnace of fire.”
Is anybody besides me longing for that day?
After all, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun.”
There is a spiritual battle going on inside each one of us. We can’t see it or touch it, so we often don’t understand how real that battle is. Do we let the causes of sin take center stage in our lives?
Those causes can run deep, to the point we don’t see an escape. Ever been there?
Christians are supposed to have success stories here, of how God showed us how to overcome our deepest sins, fears, worries, doubts and mistakes. That’s what Jesus’ death and resurrection are all about.
It’s not always that simple or clear-cut, though. Roots entangle. Sometimes it’s hard to cut them off or get rid of them. I cut one root, and many others remain. It’s a lifelong process.
There’s one root (at least) in my life that runs deeper than I know. It’s hard to talk about it. Nearly impossible, actually. I’ve mentioned it once or twice before on this page. And it hurts more than I can express.
I learned loneliness as a young boy, and I’ve hung on to that cause of sin into adulthood, well beyond the stage where I should have let it go. I have released it at times, but it’s never far away. Eventually, it returns.
It won’t leave. It’s very much a part of who I am. And it hurts my relationships with other people, including – especially – those closest to me.
Because lonely people by definition don’t talk about their feelings, it’s not like I can talk it out and live happily ever after. It’s much more complicated than that.
As a Christian, I’m supposed to have a success story about how God has overcome all of my obstacles. But this one root is stubborn. And in the cacophony that is life in the United States in 2016, it’s hard to see the answer. Or feel it. Or live it.
I’m an excellent actor. I know how to play the game of life, say and do all the right things.
But the living God knows my heart. I can’t fool Him. The farmer who created the good seed knows the poison that weeds can be. That is my hope, my only hope. God knows. He gets it. Even if I don’t.
In the same chapter as the story about the good seed and the weeds, Matthew 13, Jesus told a similar parable, this one about four types of soils. (His listeners back then understood about farming and the land.)
In this story, there also is a farmer (God) who sows seeds (the word of God). The seed lands in four different places:
- On a path, where birds (the evil one) snatch it away immediately.
- On rocky ground, which does not allow roots to grow, so as soon as trouble arises, the good plant dies.
- Among thorns, where “the cares of this world” choke it and kill it.
- On good soil, where the word of God penetrates deeply and produces a big crop.
Perhaps I’m living among the thorns, then, where I have a hard time seeing beyond the present to the big picture of eternity. Actually, my problem is the opposite. I see the big picture, but I don’t know how to handle the present.
As I said, I’m ready for the day when “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” I’m ready right now.
At least, I think I am. If this Earth is supposed to prepare me for heaven, I’m not sure I’m doing a very good job with that. Our church talks a lot about relationships, and I’m not successful there. I’d rather be alone.
It’s who I am. Is it who I am supposed to be?