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An AD 30 view of the distant future (5)

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him [Jesus, c. AD 30] privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them,….. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. …. Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire 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 welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they 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 minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as 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: 31-40 
Something rather serious has been worrying me for some time. It’s the effect that human consumption is having on planet earth – the abuse by humans of resources above ground, in the ground, and underground as well as the destruction of those resources in various ways.

For instance, Dubrovnik is a wonderful city on the Adriatic Sea. But around it are hills and mountains which are barren and unproductive. Back in history all those hills and mountains were rich in holly oak trees. The oaks are no more - they were consumed to build ships. Another example: Syria’s built resources – today - are largely rubble. They were consumed in the power struggle.

Key question. What is the most destructive thing on earth? Could self-interest, at the root of all consumption, be the very root of all destruction?


‘If all our wishes were gratified, most of our pleasures would be destroyed.’ (Richard Whatley, economist and theologian, 1787-1863) 
With this possible ultimate cause of destruction in mind, look above at some of the last words of Jesus in AD 30 before he was crucified and rose again. He’s been speaking to his disciples about the fact that he would be gone for a very long time but would return. He has said that he would return as Son on Man – a man – and would, like a shepherd, separate sheep from goats. Then, as the self-giving sovereign who has given his life for others, he would speak to the sheep on his right and to the goats on the left. 

Sheep are wonderful creatures, converting grass into meat and milk through grazing. Goats too are wonderful but they don’t merely graze. They do more. They “browse” plants, shrubs and shoots and they eat those until those very plants and bushes are consumed and destroyed completely. Their self-interest blinds them to the consequences of their self-interest.

What do you think would happen to this planet if its only inhabitants were goats? After their self-interest had multiplied themselves and consumed all? Matthew, the eye-witness biographer recorded what Jesus said that he, the one who gave himself to death to bless his enemies, would say to his sheep on his right-hand side, “Come. My Father has blessed you. Come - receive your part in what’s been prepared for you before the world was created.”

But speaking to those on the left – the goats – he said that, on that day, instead of “Come”, he’ll say to them, “Go”. “Go from me, you who chose the way of the curse, go into the never-ending fire appointed for the destroyer and his followers”.  On Jesus’ right those blessed by the Father; on the left those belonging to the destroyer.


‘The greatest fault is to be conscious of none.’ (Thomas Carlyle, writer, 1795-1881) 
But “fire”? “Unending fire”? For the goats? For the consumers? Could this be the fire of desire? What happens when desire can no longer be satisfied but is still there, burning away? For the self-orientated and all-consuming goats in that day, maybe to the fire of their own self-seeking is where they will “Go”

Matthew records that Jesus gave the reason why he would, in that day, say “Go” to the goats on the left. “Because 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 welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Truly, I say to you, because you didn’t do that to one of the least of these (all human beings, sheep and goats), you didn’t do it to me.’ 

These goats will go away into unending consequences, but the righteous into unending life. Is self-interest, even now, even in today’s world, reaping its own consequences? Jesus came to save goats. That’s why he said these things.

Sinner Syvret

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