If we consider some of the parables taught by our Lord Jesus Christ, we will discover that the right thinking about God is what really determines our eternal destiny. One of these parables is the Parable of talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In it the one talented man hides and buries his talents precisely because he thought of the Lord to be a cruel man. It reads in verse 24 of Matthew 25;
“Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’”
Let’s draw some conclusions from this verse;
- This man hated the Lord, that is why he ignored his commandments. He considered Him to be his enemy par excellence. So his negation is his vengeance. A lot of people today overlook God as if they did not see Him and pretend to be atheists. Indifference is tainted by a deep hate. But nobody hates anything that does not exist. The one talented man does not deny the existence of his Lord, he just hates him.
- If we hate the Lord or He is our enemy, then we don’t want to have a relationship with Him. All the complaining and grumbling of this man leads to severance of relationship with the Lord and man as well. If there is no love for God or if love for God does not burn in our hearts, then love for men will be dead too.
- Loss of love will ultimately lead to fear because we will turn to ourselves to solve the problem. Not being able to will lead us to the torment of fear. For the Lord says without me you can do nothing.
- It is interesting to note that the man does not accuse the Lord of being unfair. So he admits that there is a level playing field for all of them including the 5 and 2 talented men. His only problem then is what he thought about who the Lord is.
- Those who received 5 and 2 talents probably struggled with the knowledge of who the Lord is but they admitted their weakness and confessed their lack and as result sought to work out their problems within the context of community (Church).
- The one talented man made no effort to learn about God. He should have tried under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to learn about the Lord from scripture and Church Fathers.
- Rational thinking is what eventually led the man to his thoughts about the Lord. The logic of the world and the logic of God is completely different. Much faith is needed and faith is the product of love. As a result, this man finds himself in hell.
The story of the prodigal son is another parable where we learn how our thoughts about God determines our destiny. What made the prodigal return is his thought about the goodness of the Father. He thought at least he will hire me as a servant.
Paradise and hell are one and the same River of God, a loving fire which embraces and covers all with the same beneficial will, without any difference or discrimination. The same vivifying water is life eternal for the faithful and death eternal for the infidels; for the first it is their element of life, for the second it is the instrument of their eternal suffocation; paradise for the one is hell for the other. Do not consider this strange. The son who loves his father will feel happy in his father’s arms, but if he does not love him, his father’s loving embrace will be a torment to him. This also is why when we love the man who hates us, it is likened to pouring lighted coals and hot embers on his head.
“I say,” writes Saint Isaac the Syrian, “that those who are suffering in hell, are suffering in being scourged by love…. It is totally false to think that the sinners in hell are deprived of God’s love. Love is a child of the knowledge of truth, and is unquestionably given commonly to all. But love’s power acts in two ways: it torments sinners, while at the same time it delights those who have lived in accord with it” (Homily 84).
God is love. If we really believe this truth, we know that God never hates, never punishes, never takes vengeance. As Abba Ammonas says, “Love never hates anyone, never reproves anyone, never condemns anyone, never grieves anyone, never abhors anyone, neither faithful nor infidel nor stranger nor sinner nor fornicator, nor anyone impure, but instead it is precisely sinners, and weak and negligent souls that it loves more, and feels pain for them and grieves and laments, and it feels sympathy for the wicked and sinners, more than for the good, imitating Christ Who called sinners, and ate and drank with them. For this reason, showing what real love is, He taught saying, ‘Become good and merciful like your Father in Heaven,’ and as He rains on bad and good and makes the sun to rise on just and unjust alike, so also is the one who has real love, and has compassion, and prays for all.”
Now if anyone is perplexed and does not understand how it is possible for God’s love to render anyone pitifully wretched and miserable and even burning as it were in flames, let him consider the elder brother of the prodigal son. Was he not in his father’s estate? Did not everything in it belong to him? Did he not have his father’s love? Did his father not come himself to entreat and beseech him to come and take part in the joyous banquet? What rendered him miserable and burned him with inner bitterness and hate? Who refused him anything? Why was he not joyous at his brother’s return? Why did he not have love either toward his father or toward his brother? Was it not because of his wicked, inner disposition? Did he not remain in hell because of that? And what was this hell? Was it any separate place? Were there any instruments of torture? Did he not continue to live in his father’s house? What separated him from all the joyous people in the house if not his own hate and his own bitterness? Did his father, or even his brother, stop loving him? Was it not precisely this very love which hardened his heart more and more? Was it not the joy that made him sad? Was not hatred burning in his heart, hatred for his father and his brother, hatred for the love of his father toward his brother and for the love of his brother toward his father? This is hell: the negation of love; the return of hate for love; bitterness at seeing innocent joy; to be surrounded by love and to have hate in one’s heart. This is the eternal condition of all the damned. They are all dearly loved. They are all invited to the joyous banquet. They are all living in God’s Kingdom, in the New Earth and the New Heavens. No one expels them. Even if they wanted to go away they could not flee from God’s New Creation, nor hide from God’s tenderly loving omnipresence.
Some good points here. However, although community or church is needed, there can be some problems with Church. If a Church obsesses on the fearsome aspect of God, this can be counterproductive. Fear (along with guilt) has been used very much in the history of Christianity. If Church men make God into being some kind of ogre, we must ask ourselves the following questions. If God is an ogre, hankering over our possible missteps so He can hurl us into Hell for ever, what is the use of the religion? Most of us are damned to be sure. If God is not the ogre they have made Him out to be, why did they drive many people to despair with their false concept or flawed understanding of God?
Srila Prabhupada (1896 – 1977) wrote in his books that the test of the worth or authenticity of a religious system is how effective it is in teaching people how to love God. Just some food for though.
I appreciate your comment. The Church certainly is crucial despite its flows. The Holy Spirit was given at the gathering of the Church and Christ has promised to be with the Church until the end of times. Christianity is not a lone religion. But over the years, much corruption has come to the Church. This was evident in the western Church (Catholic Church). So much so that Martin Luther protested in the 16th century and started the Protestant Church. This was never the case in the Eastern Church (Orthodox Church). The theology of the Catholic Church propagated this fear that you mentioned. God was painted as a tyrant. A lot of people chose to be Atheist than to worship this kind of God. On top of that when scripture was translated from the Greek language, it lost some fundamental essence of the meaning in regards to heaven and hell. God does not have torture chambers in hell. If so, how can He be called a loving God. If we reject His love, then we are in hell. This is very clear in the Bible. The thieves who were crucified on the left and right of Christ is the perfect example. The one on the right accepts and believed while the one on the left rejected and mocked him. They will carry the same inner disposition to heaven upon their death. God respects our free will and never forces anyone. By that we know how loving and humble He is. Amen.