“Why I am Condemned and Perhaps Others,” by Andrew J. Schatkin
At first glance, many people would perhaps find this subject and concept somewhat comical or would not understand it. However, after much reflection, I have reached this conclusion concerning myself and how I have lived my life and may find this conclusion applicable to others, although I cannot speak of or certainly make a judgment on others who I do not know. When I was a younger person, in general, I felt extremely well of myself in every way. Particularly, as I was studying in college, law school, and graduate school I thought of myself, first of all, to be a very smart, articulate, well-educated, and well-mannered. I also thought myself to be a fairly good person or, at least, I perceived myself to be. These conclusion were based on my own essential egotism and self-involvement. I would also add that I found myself to be rather good-looking and popular.
However, Jesus set a bar in a certain saying in the gospels that makes me think that I and many others perhaps should be condemned. Two particular passages in the Gospels come to mind. One is the Parable of the Last Judgment found in Mathew 25:31-46. In this gospel passage, Jesus tells us that when he returns to earth with all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne and all nations will be gathered before him. He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left. H then tell us that he will say to those at his right hand, “Come, O Blessed of 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.”
Then the righteous answer him, “Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick, or in prison and visit thee?”
And the king will answer them, “Truly I say to you as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, “Depart from me you cursed into the eternal life prepared for the devil and his angels, for I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not clothe me; I was sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”
Then they also will answer, “Lord when did we see thee hungry or thirsty, or a stranger or naked, or sick or in prison and did minister to thee?”
Then he will answer to them, “Truly I say to you as you did it to not one of the least of these you did it to me. And they will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.”
The second passage which points to me and suggests that I as well as others should be condemned is found in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, found in Luke 16:19-31. In this parable, Jesus tells us of a rich man who feasted very well every day while at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus full of sores who wanted to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table and the dogs came and licked his sores. Jesus tells us that the poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom and the rich man died and was buried.
While in Hades, in torment, the former rich man lifts his eyes and sees Lazarus in the bosom of Abraham. In his suffering, the rich man asks father Abraham to have mercy on him and send Lazarus to dip the ends of his finger in water and cool the rich man’s tongue. Abraham reminds the rich man that in his lifetime he received good things and Lazarus received evil things and that Lazarus is now comforted while the rich man is in anguish.
Abraham then tells the suffering rich man that a barrier has essentially been established between those in Hades and those in, for want of a better word, heaven. The rich man then asks Abraham to send Lazarus, who is dead, to the house of the rich ma’s father to warn his five brothers about what may await them. Abraham says they have Moses and the prophets and they are able to hear them but, even if someone comes from the dead, they will not repent. The conclusion of the parable is that if someone will not hear and heed Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.
From these statements or, rather, parables, I see my gross inadequacies and deficiencies as a person. The message of these parables is clear. It is not enough that we attend to our own affairs, needs, and families. Jesus is quite clear in demanding that we live our lives with a concern if not love for those whom we know suffer before us in the course of our lives. Jesus unequivocally states here that there will be a last judgment and the criteria for that judgment will be how we treat other people. He tells us that we must feed the hungry; give drink to those who thirst; clothe the naked; visit the sick and those in prison. Jesus also tells us here that if we do not do these things to our neighbors in the course of our lives, we do the same to him. He is very emphatic and unequivocal in stating that how we treat the least of persons in the course of our lives we treat him and that this will be the basis for measuring us as person and will be the criteria for judgment on us all.
Again, in the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, the rich man stood by in fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day while he gave nothing to the poor man. Lazarus merely wanted to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Jesus tells us that the rich man will be condemned for showing no concern for this very poor person who suffered at his door step while the same person, perhaps because of his very poverty and suffering, will be rewarded. Again the message here is quite clear that should we live our life with no concern for others and ignore their suffering and pain of our neighbors, who may not in the world’s eyes be the best and most desirable after our lives end the tables will be turned and we will suffer greatly.
Having read and attempted to understand these two parables, I have reached the very logical and valid conclusion that most my life has been devoted to myself and that I have done little or nothing for those around me. I have not visited anyone in prison or sick; have not fed others who need food or given clothes to those in need. While I have feasted with my family during Thanksgiving and Christmas, I do not pay much attention to those who have nothing on those days. It is a fact I am a regular church attender. However, Jesus makes it quite clear that what matters is not what I may so about him and whether I may profess faith in him but what I do for others and for those I may encounter in the course of my life. Perhaps I am no worse or better than anyone else and can only say that it is quite clear according to these parables that I am a moral failure. Perhaps Jesus in these parables sets an impossible bar for us all. However, he does say this is what we should do with our lives and if we do not do this there may be a consequence.
Of course, I am most grateful that at least there is forgiveness by god for my failings. I am fortunate enough to be aware of my failings and I repent of them and hope for forgiveness. I would think I am in the same boat as my fellow human beings trying to survive. However, I now realize that I have spent most of my life thinking or myself and trying to attain things for myself and have not given the required consideration and help to the groups to whom Jesus suggests awe are obligated.
I conclude, in weighing the course of my life, my actions, and thoughts, that I have been selfish and, yes, that I deserve condemnation. But I rest upon the forgiveness and promise of God. I end by asking of my readers and neighbors to look at themselves and ask the same of themselves. I make no judgments since judgment is in the hands of God and in his mind, but I do ask reflection on these Gospel passages that could lead us all to the truth about ourselves as the have led me to the truth about myself.