Table of Contents
I think there are three categories of believers described in the parables.
- Those who are condemned for doing evil
- Those who are condemned for not doing good
- Those who do good and don’t do evil
1. Those who do evil
In Mat 7:21-23, Jesus describes people who called him “Lord” and did impressive works in His name. However Jesus these good works do not cancel the ‘lawlessness’ which seems to be the deciding factor in determining a person’s salvation.
Mat 7:23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
A similar passage is found in Luke 13:25-27. In this instance we do not know whether the servants did good works. It seems fair to assume from the words ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets’ that they had a relationship with the Lord. But the defining factor again is doing evil.
Luk 13:27 But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’
2. Those who don’t do good
In the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Mat 25:31-46), the goats were not scolded for doing evil. Rather their crime was not doing good they should have done.
Mat 25:40-45 ESV And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41 “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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 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.’ 44 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?’ 45 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.’
Something similar is seen in the Parable of the Talents (Mat 25:14-30). The Lord’s money was not squandered. In fact it was returned whole. But the ‘worthless servant’ (Mat 25:30) was still damned.
Mat 25:24-27 ESV He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ 26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.
In the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Mat 22:1-14), Jesus describes a man who was ‘called’ (Mat 22:14) to the wedding and found ‘worthy’ (Mat 22:8). We should esteem this person blessed:
Rev 19:9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”
However Jesus, when observing the ‘guests’ (Mat 22:11) found a man without a wedding garment. The previous verse in Revelation suggests what this might mean:
Rev 19:7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
So it seems again that this parable teaches that a person may not be guilty of gross sin but will still be excluded from the Kingdom of God due to a failure to do good works.
The Parable of the Virgins (Mat 25:1-13) is the least clear. The primary issue was that they were not ready for the Lord’s return (Mat 25:13). However a secondary issue may be observed in that the foolish virgins lacked something (Mat 25:8). Perhaps that something is good works.
In the Parable of the House on the Rock (Mat 7:24-27), Jesus describes someone who fails to do (Mat 7:26) what He commanded. This could imply be a failure to do good.
3. Those who do good and don’t do evil
Jesus commends the ‘sheep’ for the good works that they did.
Mat 25:35-38 ESV 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, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
In the Parable Talents, the servants who were commended were ones that did good with what they had received.
Mat 25:20-21 ESV And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ 21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’
- Many believers seek to avoid serious sins. They don’t commit adultery or fornication, they don’t steal or lie, they are regular church attendees, they enjoy both the teaching of the Lord and being in His presence etc.
- However although there is an absence of evil deeds, for some there is also and absence of good deeds. Matthew 25:42-43 describes what those good deeds include – all of them involved showing love to the ‘least of these’ (Mat 25:45).
- What is the quantity and quality of good deeds Jesus is looking for? How much time and money does He expect us to give to serving others in this way? I don’t have answers for these question 🙂