Category: Bible Essays


Last time, we looked at how sin results not as a reaction from an outer cause, but from within. During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught five steps to help us identify and confront this inner sin.

His first example derived from the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13). He said, even if we don’t act on our anger, it not only distorts our perception, prohibiting logical thought and loving-kindness, but we still harm someone, ourselves, by doing something just as damaging: We brood on it.

Whatever we spend our time on, whether thinking or doing, that thought or feeling determines who we are. Though we try to hold back our anger, the pressure builds, and the darkness corrodes our will, until we can no longer contain it. At that point, we have no choice but to spare ourselves further pain. So we make someone else our scapegoat, projecting onto them the responsibility of our sin.

By practicing mindfulness (the first step), and identifying our anger when it arises, we can learn to stop our brooding before it gets out of hand. Because sin comes from within, it is our responsibility, and not a reaction, or effect, but a cause.

We cause sin. We create it. That means we can stop it.

We prevent this harm to ourselves and others by being faithful.

Step 2: Faithfulness

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: / But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”-Matthew 5:27-28.

The Bible can be very tricky to read and interpret. First of all, each of us sees in the text what our experience allows us to see. If you want to find something in Holy Scripture, no matter what it is, you’ll find it. We must always remember that.

Secondly, keeping in mind what I just wrote, I see the Bible as being literal sometimes, metaphorical and parabolic at other times, and often both. Take witchcraft and idolatry, for example.

“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.”-Exodus 22:18.

In Salem, Massachusetts, from 1692 until 1693, Puritans used this verse as their justification to hang 14 women and 5 men. But what is a witch? They had to invent a definition, and tests, because the Bible doesn’t say, at least in a literal context.

Idolatry was so reprehensible and common to the Hebrews, and a gateway to greater sins, that the first two of the ten commandments focused on it.

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. / Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing….”-Exodus 20:3-4.

While we see examples of idolatry in the Bible, like the golden calf, and read about how the Jews worshiped other gods at times, there is more to this than only the literal understanding.

“Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.”-Exodus 34:15.

So not being faithful to God is like prostitution. Old Testament text refers repeatedly to people who “go a whoring after other gods” (Exodus 34:15-16; Lev. 17:7, 20:5-6; Num. 15:39; Deut. 31:16, etc. 20 times in all).

“For rebellion [against God] is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubborness is as idolatry….”-1 Samuel 15:23.

Metaphorically, witchcraft is not being faithful to God. Idolatry is being too stubborn, stuck in our selfish ways, to remain faithful to our one true love, or Lord. Therefore, adultery, which means not being faithful, also puts someone else before the one with whom you share a covenant.

“…with their idols have they committed adultery….”-Ezekiel 23:37.

So when we speak here of adultery, and coveting with lust in our hearts, we are not just talking about breaking the vows with our spouse, and being unfaithful to them; we are also committing idolatry, worshiping a false image that we created with our own hands. In other words, we’re also being unfaithful to God. And, by God, I mean everyone and everything.

But, mostly, what I understand “adultery” to mean here is that, when we lust after something false, something we created in our own minds, then we are being unfaithful to ourselves.

Before we look into how we can be faithful, remember, from last time, that we can’t control a surge of momentary, transitory emotion. To lose your temper, or feel lust when you happen to see an attractive person, lacks the brooding necessary to take those harmful feelings to heart.

“I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”-Jeremiah 17:10.

Keep in mind, this applies to what we take to heart, and what we do. If we lose our temper, and act in anger against someone, as Cain killed Abel, then God curses us, and marks us as unfaithful. First comes the feeling, which is out of our control, and then comes the action, which can make or break our entire life.

We need an in-between step, so we can stop after the feeling, before the doing, and be mindful when we feel what could be used as justification to harm someone.

“Put away your sword, Jesus told him. Those who use the sword will die by the sword.”-Matthew 26:52.

When we are born again, we practice mindfulness, and learn to recognize when our emotions surge; then we can stop ourselves before we act against another person. This awareness also helps us to be thoughtful of our lust or anger, so we don’t take it to heart, and brood upon it: thereby harming ourselves.

Whatever we spend our time thinking, feeling, and doing becomes who we are. These are the seeds we sow, leaving us no choice but to reap and harvest only from what we planted, in ourselves and in others.

“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. / Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”-Luke 12:39-40.

Since we’re unable to prepare for what we don’t know, whether it’s the time, place, or circumstances of our trial, then we need something that will work for us, and prevent sin, in a general, all-purpose way. That something is faithfulness.

To understand how to be faithful to ourselves, we must realize that the path to our understanding is unique for each of us. My old math teacher told me something that stuck with me: There are many ways to the right answer, but there is only one right answer.

I can help, in a general way, but you have to fit this to the specifics of your own life, and see in this lesson what works for you.

“LORD, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.”-Psalm 39:4.

If we’re honest about our frailty, then our humility points the way, for each of us, to the single answer we all seek: Who am I; who are we; and what do I need to feel safe and loved, in an existence that can break my neck, if I trip and fall?

The Bible states plainly who we are, and it is to this simple ideal that we must remain true.

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”-Genesis 2:15.

Even when Adam and Eve were unfaithful, committing adultery against God, their purpose in life did not change.

“So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”-Genesis 3:23.

Since we were all “taken” from our mothers and fathers, who were informed by their experiences, and everyone and everything they knew, including their parents, and everyone and everything they knew, and so on, all across the world, and even out into space, from which we have “taken” all the elements of carbon and oxygen, from stars that exploded, which spread their remnants, their seeds, across the cosmos, then our purpose is to take care of whatever parts of the universe, be they person, place, or thing, in which we find ourselves.

“God” is another word for the entirety of everyone and everything: the world, the universe, and then some. So we love and are faithful to God, when we care for one another. Further, we are true to ourselves, and fulfil our purpose, when we work for the good of all.

“I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”-John 17:4.

If we don’t fulfil our purpose, doing the work allotted to us, then we become lost and confused. We wander around the garden, not knowing how to use the shovel and hoe: the implements and talents we possess.

Adam and Eve were unfaithful for the same reason we are today.

“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”-Genesis 3:5.

Being loved by God, and caring for everything in return, was not enough for them. They committed adultery because they wanted what was, in their minds, a greater purpose: to be God, themselves.

It is beyond us to be what we are not. More than that, it is unhealthy (mentally and physically) to believe we are what we are not: That’s what “sin” really is, not some moral thing to do for the sake of morality, but a psychological pitfall that damages us, even if we just think about it, but especially when we act on it.

Part of the reason sin harms us is that we are not being faithful to ourselves, and fulfilling our purpose, which is to take care of the garden, and everyone and everything in it, to love one another. We commit this adultery because we don’t see ourselves as part of God, but as the central figure, the reason for everything, holding dominion over each other, and the world.

“And God blessed [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”-Genesis 1:28.

We try to subdue others, as they set out to conquer us, with none of us thinking it odd that the other acts like they’re the most important thing in the world.

We are all equally important, and incomplete without each other. You know what I don’t know; I can do something that you’re unable to accomplish. Therefore, we are not masters over each other, with one speck of dust being superior or inferior to another.

“…a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.”-Ecclesiastes 3:19.

Rather, we are faithful to ourselves, each other, and God, when we achieve and practice our simple purpose:

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”-John 15:9.

I know this seems like a small thing, for such a great being as I am, or you are. Why be gardeners, when we can be God? But we have yet to accomplish this minuscule feat that’s so far beneath us.

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”-John 3:12.

We can’t be God. Deluding ourselves only harms us, drives us insane with lust and anger.

Since we haven’t succeeded in the earthly purpose of simply caring for each other, how can we possibly assume that we are the heavenly, all-important God? We are faithful to ourselves, when we know ourselves, and remain true to who we are.

In the Old Testament, on through to Jesus’ time, the Jews saw adultery as being punishable by death.

“And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife…the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”-Leviticus 20:10.

And so we die, inside, psychologically, in our hearts, when we aren’t faithful to who we are. When the Jews asked Jesus to help them stone an adulteress, he said the same thing to her that he still says to us, and what we need to say to each other, and to ourselves.

“…Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”-John 8:11.

We have been caught in adultery. We lust after a life, and a goal, that we can’t possibly achieve. In doing so, we ignore our true purpose, something which we should love; and we see ourselves, not as we are, or as we should be, but as we are unable to be. Likewise, we see others as they are not, but as we wish for them to be, so that we can wallow in our self-deluded lust for power: a stubborn denial of love, compassion, and mercy.

The Bible’s goal is to show us the simple, human weaknesses, which we deny and tend to overlook.

“For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.”-Matthew 13:15.

By avoiding these truths, we refuse to love, and are unfaithful to ourselves. We take these lies to heart, neither acknowledging or denying that we have rebelled against our purpose, and held stubbornly to the vain “golden calf” that we created. We’ve heard all that Jesus had to say, and, though we might claim to believe, and call him Lord (our one true love), we commit adultery against him, because we are too weak to do as he taught, and live as he lived.

But to actually realize what we’ve been doing, and admit our frailty, humbling ourselves, so that our true love knows that we are sorry, that we’ll try harder, then we must begin to see, hear, and understand the truth.

“…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; / And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”-John 8:31-32.

This is what it means to be born again: starting a new life, with a pure, repentant heart, accepting and caring for everyone, and everything. This faith in ourselves is greater than our selfish desires, as it encompasses, and impacts everyone around us, who influence everyone around them, and so on, coming back to us, and strengthening us, instead of harming and undermining us, upon its return. You reap what you sow.

To be unfaithful to this sacred trust, between us and all of life, starts a chain reaction; our adultery topples every domino on Earth, and creates a guilt worse than the brooding. While taking to heart our angry and lustful feelings damages us, even if we’re unaware of it consciously, when we brood on our harmful actions against others, the pressure far exceeds what we can bear.

The only way to have a healthy relationship, whether it’s between us and God, us and our spouse, or with friends or ourselves, is to deal with how we feel. There is no running away from ourselves.

“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.”-Psalm 19:14.

God calls us to love all that exists. No matter if it’s clean or dirty, good or bad, it is still of our Lord. If we are to feel loved, and safe, then we must also help others feel that way too. So we love our spouses, and friends, as they are, warts and all. We have faith that they can improve, faith that we can improve. But we must remember to act on this faith, expressing the love others need to act on their faith. This mindfulness ends the need to cheat on our true love, because the beauty of the purified heart never fades.

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We are born again when we have the humility to realize, and commit ourselves to, the necessity of loving one another: This outlook enriches and transforms our own lives, as well as those of everyone we meet, by breaking the mirrored, chain reaction of bitterness.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, / Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: / All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.”-Mark 7:21-23.

To remain reborn (or, rather, return to the path once we’ve inevitably stumbled off of it), we must confront not only our tendencies for outer, interpersonal wrongs, but also dig deeply to our inner sins: the negativity we don’t express to others, but feel, and brood upon. If we don’t purge this poison, it rots our hearts, and torments our minds. Even if we love our neighbors, unless we are mindful of what’s in our hearts, unless we free ourselves from the secret guilt incurred by unexpressed sinful thinking and feeling, then we have still sinned and defiled ourselves.

During his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out five steps to help us confront what we feel, before we act on it. We might not even be aware of these thoughts, at least consciously. As we hide the truth of how we feel, from not only each other but ourselves, our outer selves (what and how we express ourselves to others) grow accustomed to lies and obfuscation. This isn’t a completely bad thing: really, a noble attempt to share only kindness, and avoid negative emotions.

However, our inner selves know the truth. We’re always honest on the inside. But the outer attempts to force the inner to lie, to hide the truth of how we feel, by not acknowledging our anger. This bifurcation creates conflict, a struggle from within and without; and since we can’t even acknowledge these disparate aspects of ourselves, without facing them, then the war between our need for honesty and tendency to lie escalates, until we must relieve the pressure by projecting onto others the responsibility of how we feel: This is where sin comes from.

So, in our efforts to do no wrong, by hiding our anger, we leave ourselves little choice but to do wrong, by realizing that we’re unable to contain it.

Step One: Mindfulness

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: / But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”-Matthew 5:21-22.

Jesus begins with what we already know, one of the 10 Commandments.

“Thou shalt not kill.”-Exodus 20:13.

As we learn, it helps to start with something familiar. Everyone knows murder is wrong. We’ve heard that already. However, have you stopped to think of where the outer act of killing originates?

A murderer could claim they were provoked. We might think of it as human nature: something we just do, and can’t control. But we are held responsible for our actions, whether provoked or not, human nature or choice.

So killing begins with the killer: how they feel, perceive, react, and what they think: The inner leads to the outer; the means construct the end in its own likeness. We must stay aware of what goes on inside our minds.

“And [Jesus] arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”-Mark 4:39.

To be mindful, we must first be still. Take a few deep breaths. Focus on your breath, not your anger. Let the moment be what it is, not the enraged thing you make of it. When we perceive everything around us (taking the time to consciously and deliberately hear, feel, see, taste, and smell), then we can calmly look on our anger with new eyes.

Anger negates peace; but, by returning peace to yourself, you cancel anger.

“…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”-Luke 17:21.

Heaven is within. So God, Jesus is within. At the beginning of this essay, we read that what defiles us (sin) is also within us. We produce the problem, and we hold the cure. So let us look further, deeper into our anger, its source, and how to deal with it.

The New Testament was originally written in Greek. When translated, over the centuries, the bishops and scribes chose certain words from the new languages (English, for example), that might not capture the full meaning of the older Greek.

In Greek we find two different words for “anger”: thumos and orge.

Thumos [pronounced THU-mas; thu rhymes with you; mos, like Christmas] refers to an anger that quickly blazes up, like a struck match, and just as quickly dies down.

Thumos erupts, suddenly and instantly, making it almost impossible to predict, or prevent. This isn’t the word Jesus used in the text for the kind of anger that is a sin.

Orge [pronounced or-GAY; or, like the conjunction; gey rhymes with day] refers to a deep-rooted, long-lived anger.

This one is our responsibility. We choose to bottle up our ill feelings, ruminating on revenge.

We become what we take to heart.

“For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”-Romans 7:19.

When we nurture hatred, and brood upon our suffering, the anger becomes a part of us: how we think, feel, what we do, and how we react. It influences our perception, so that we see only what confirms our indignation; it creates stress, as we attempt to contain it; and, as this darkness grows beyond our ability to stop it, we release it at others.

Anger makes us do what we would never do otherwise.

Thumos can become orge. Mindfulness is all that stops us from taking to heart a moment of rage. We can let go of thumos: It’s really just a passing inconvenience, a minor annoyance.

We gain mindfulness by practicing on the easier-to-handle thumos. Be aware of your anger when it pounces on you, so you don’t, in turn, jump on someone else.

In the Greek text, Jesus used the word orge.

“…whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment….”

If we taste a small amount of poison, and immediately spit it out, it barely harms us; but if we swallow a lot, digest it, until it becomes a part of us, then we’re in big trouble: That’s the difference between, respectively, thumos and orge.

If we embrace good, kind thoughts about others and ourselves, then we grow accustomed to this love, and try to maintain it. But if we’re angry, and refuse to release that feeling, then we get used to it.

We might call this the law of emotional inertia: A loving heart continues to love, and an angry heart continues to hate, until it is acted upon by an outside force.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to simultaneously maintain both extremes. If you find yourself angry and chaotic, be still and find peace within your thoughts. Be mindful of what makes you feel peaceful, and return to that thought, or image, to negate your anger.

“…whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”

The oldest Bible texts don’t include the phrase “without a cause.” Over the long haul of time, especially in the first couple of centuries of the Christian Church, a lot was added to, and removed from, or changed in the Bible.

Jesus didn’t say, Love one another, unless you have different religions, nationalities, or politics. He didn’t say, It’s okay to brood upon your anger, if someone slaps you.

So what that phrase really communicates is this: Whosoever is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment.

Even if we interpret someone as causing the effect of our anger, and feel justified in, and entitled to, our rage, the sin still takes root. Remember, our outer self lies, while our inner always knows the truth.

Our outer self believes we have a good reason, that someone else caused us to be angry; our inner reasoning will not accept that we hate for a good cause: It knows only that we hate.

“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.”-1 John 3:15.

And so our inner self blames us for feeling hatred, and inflicting harm, whether on ourselves or others. Instead of our anger being the effect, it is the cause. We are responsible for how we act and react: We didn’t spit out the poison. We didn’t forgive.

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”-Matthew 6:12.

God forgives us, if we forgive others.

“And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee….”-Genesis 12:3.

When we forgive others, we forgive ourselves; when we love others, we love ourselves; when we curse others, we curse ourselves.

So, what we do to others, we do to ourselves.

If we welcome the venom into our heart, by causing others to hurt, and thereby harming ourselves, then we become the same as the person who projected their anger at us: Our angry reaction causes this effect.

We don’t have to continue the chain reaction, and keep the bitterness; we can learn from it, then let it go. To learn, calm yourself, then ask, Why do I feel this way? If you can stop and think, allowing and inviting peace, then mindfulness overcomes your anger.

This is the understanding required for the first step.

“…whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council….”

The Jews used the word Raca [pronounced RA-cuh; ra, like bath; ca, like cut] with a tone of contempt. A term of reproach, its root derives from the Chaldee word reka, which means “to spit.” It refers to, and is directed at, a vain, worthless, senseless, and empty-headed person.

Raca expressed contempt for someone’s intellectual capacity.

Compare that with the last part of the verse: “…but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Here, fool differs from the intellectual, critical thinking deficiency implied in Raca. Instead, it refers to moral and religious character, or, rather, the lack thereof: for example, calling someone impious, bad, or evil.

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”-Luke 6:37.

We become angry, when we judge someone as being the instigator of our anger. It is a mistaken emotion: illogical and foolish. They didn’t make us angry, we reacted angrily.

We condemn them, because our outer self lies to us, refusing to accept the responsibility. But our inner self knows the truth: We are to blame for our moment of weakness.

We are mad that we let someone make us mad. They got the better of us, and we feel like a fool.

“Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools.”-Ecclesiastes 7:9.

So we were wrong to get mad, because we mistakenly condemned someone else, when it was really our own moment of weakness that embarrassed us.

We project our fault onto others, because then we don’t have to admit culpability, and we can ignore the disparate nature between our inner and outer selves.

This happens so abruptly, even instantly, that we really can’t help it, or hope to prevent it. We will stumble from the path. We will sin. We can’t stop it in time. However, with mindfulness, we can catch ourselves, before the poison sets in: We can rein in the anger, before thumos becomes orge.

At first, when Simon-Peter tried to walk on water, that is, walk in Jesus’ path, he succeeded.

“But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.”-Matthew 14:30.

We all stumble and fall. That is not a sin. Hard times distract us; thunder, lightning, and gale winds interrupt our mindfulness, convincing us that we can’t possibly walk on water: So we sink.

Thumos (a moment of weakness) is nothing to be ashamed of. However, we rightly judge and condemn ourselves, if we don’t learn from our mistake, and turn back to the path.

Everything comes from within. We manifest anger in ourselves, as well as the resulting disappointment in our weakness; our inner self humbles us so that those feelings will spur us into action, making us want to work to return to the path, just to end our suffering.

Humility is essential to realizing the necessity of loving one another.

That’s why Jesus said, “…Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. / Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”-Matthew 18:3-4.

Heaven is within us, and, when we have the humility to repent, we return to this state of being: We’re reborn again.

“But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”-Matthew 5:22.

Of course, the inner and outer are the same person. We judge ourselves. But, to avoid acknowledging this schizophrenic battle of wits, we wrongfully judge others: This is sin, because it hurts everyone.

Following this verse, in order of degree and increasing severity, we judge others by (1) getting angry, (2) calling them an idiot, and (3) accusing them of being a bad person. These three judgments reflect back on us, resulting in three punishments: Our inner self attempts to direct the blame toward where it truly belongs, so that we’ll face our weakness, learn from it, and work to overcome it.

“…whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment….”

During Jesus’ time in Israel, and since the days of Moses, the first punishment would come from the local or provincial court: Today, that would be our peers, each other. When we judge, we are judged in return; when we punish someone by judging them, that punishment reflects back on us.

For each judgment there is a corresponding punishment; and for each punishment, a judgment.

We react by reflecting each other, like a mirror. Love, and you will be loved; condemn, and you will be condemned.

Our first judgment of others is to feel anger. We project the responsibility of that anger, the cause to our indignant effect, by bearing false witness against them: They made us angry; when, really, we are responsible for how we act and react; so we chose to get angry. We are mad because we gave in to our weakness of spirit, and feel like a fool.

Our first punishment, as we brood upon this anger, trying to hold it back, is that we swallow the poison. It will go to work on us immediately, rotting our hearts, and tormenting our minds: a living hell.

“…whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council….”

Our second judgment of others is when we escalate the confrontation, going from what we feel inside, to what we express. We can’t control the darkness at this point, though we are responsible for it. We refused to return to the path by having the humility to repent. So we project onto someone else how we really feel about ourselves, calling them an idiot, or otherwise implying that they’re ignorant.

For the Jews at that time, “the council” was the Sanhedrin: the law and order of their day; judge, jury, and executioner.

They were the people who conspired to kill Jesus, to destroy the personification of love, humility, and togetherness: Those innocent aspects caused them to feel ashamed, threatened.

“The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. / Many testified falsely against him….”-Mark 14:55-56.

As our anger escalates from brooding to calling someone an idiot, we pass beyond the fleeting feeling of thumos, and past the bottled up rage of orge. At this point, we actually express the sin we kept hidden, and the outer self reveals our defiled heart.

As our inner self judges us, our outer self refuses to accept it, and projects the blame and anger onto someone else. This goes back to the 10 Commandments.

“Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.”-Exodus 20:16.

The reason we sin by bearing false witness is because dishonesty harms us, and others, just like our anger. Sin is of three parts: (1) The darkness we feel and brood upon, (2) the projection of those lies onto others, and (3) the continuing of the cycle by feeling guilty that we blamed someone else for our own weaknesses, while also not accepting that guilt as our own.

Our inner self values honesty above all else: It’s sole purpose is to make us face the truth. When we refuse, and as we wrongfully attempt to accuse others, then we harm ourselves.

By judging, judgement reflects back on us. Since we didn’t learn from our first punishment, our second punishment calls for a higher court, and greater severity. The Sanhedrin dealt often in death. They stoned Saint Stephen, and crucified Jesus. Primarily, they investigated false prophets: people who act righteously, and claim to be from God, but act in their own interests.

We are all the characters in Jesus’ parables.

“And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it. / But without a parable spake he not unto them….”-Mark 4:33-34.

Everything Jesus taught was in the form of a parable, even, or especially, when it wasn’t so obvious that he was being parabolic.

So if we fake playing holier-than-thou, and wrongfully claim, “Thus saith the Lord,” as if we’re a prophet of righteousness, then the council punishes us. And since we are the Sanhedrin of ourselves, our inner self sits in judgment on our outer lies.

We are the Sanhedrin, and the false prophet: We punish ourselves. We multiply the guilt and stress of brooding, into the sorrow and distress of acting on our anger, falsely accusing our neighbor. And now, we are not just at war with ourselves, but also at odds with each other.

“…whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Ever increasing in degrees, our third judgment of others persisted through not only two punishments, but also the corresponding opportunities to repent. When we are too weak and cowardly to face our own inability to sit in judgment on ourselves, we call someone else immoral, when, really, we are the bad person for bearing false witness against them.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?”-Luke 6:41.

Jesus teaches us, if we remove the obvious sin from our heart, then we can see clearly enough to help our neighbors.

Until then: “…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”-John 8:7.

This accusation of immorality is worse than calling someone an idiot, and having our peers condemn us in return; and it’s much worse than feeling anger, and punishing ourselves for being so weak and foolish. This third, final, and most severe of the condemnations results in a proportionately terrible third punishment.

We can’t handle thinking of ourselves as a bad person. So we project that judgment onto someone else.

“And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. // …to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”-Leviticus 16:8,10.

In this third judgment, we think to free ourselves by sacrificing someone else, a scapegoat: They are a bad, immoral person, and will bear the weight and responsibility of all my sins. But our inner self knows the truth of this travesty, and heaps on us the stuff of nightmares.

“Hell fire” is another of those terms that changed during all the translations. The oldest surviving texts use the Hebrew word “Gehenna.” Unfortunately, this didn’t make it into many of the Bibles we know today [including my beloved King James Version].

This comes from the Aramaic Bible in Plain English (The Jews of Jesus’ time spoke Aramaic.):

“But I am saying to you, that everyone who will be angry against his brother without cause is condemned before the judge, and everyone who will say to his brother, ‘I spit on you’, is condemned before the assembly, and whoever will say ‘You fool.’ is condemned to the Gehenna of fire.”-Matthew 5:22.

Gehenna [pronounced ge-HEN-na; ge, like gut; hen, like a female chiken; na, like nut] has a history.

During the years when Israel separated from Judah, and both had a succession of kings, Israel’s kings got worse and worse. They worshiped pagan gods, trying to be like the other nations.

One of Israel’s kings was named Ahaz.

“He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.”-2 Chronicles 28:3.

During Jesus’ time, this place was seen by the Jews as an area that would be forever cursed. They dumped and burned trash there. It was a garbage dump, a public incinerator: always smoking, stinking, and cursed.

Called Gehenna by the Jews (Ge Hinnom, literally “Valley of Hinnom”), it was, as Jesus said, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.”-Mark 9:48.

In the first few centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Christians interpreted this idea of a cursed, stinking, fiery incinerator to be the description of a place where an unrepentant sinner’s torment never ends, a lake of fire, presided over by fallen angels.

“And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”-Revelation 20:10.

Whatever else it might be, Hell (like Heaven) is within us. It is what happens when we brood on our anger, then project it onto others, making them suffer. Our inner self feels guilty for this, and attempts to make us suffer until we repent.

If we don’t make peace with that person we wronged, then the guilt stays, taking root, burning the child within us until our heart smells like garbage.

When we curse others, we condemn ourselves. Whether or not God or Jesus literally judge us, we judge ourselves.

Jesus said, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.”-John 8:15.

Our inner self tells us the truth: We are guilty of internal violence when we feel anger, and external violence when we act on our hatred. This violence does not end; it goes on forever, an endless cycle of brooding, reacting, projecting and feeling anger.

The only way out of this everlasting personal hell is to repent.

Forgiveness negates Gehenna.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”-Matthew 4:17.

We repent by having the mindfulness to forgive others, knowing that we were wrong, and forgive ourselves for bearing false witness. This is the way out of the lake of fire, which burns with anger and resentment. We return to the state of heaven, that is, we’re reborn again, by becoming humble like a child: enthusiastic to learn love, and grow because of it.

This is the lesson of thumos, the anger for which we repent and release, versus orge, the hatred and resentment upon which we brood. This first of five steps teaches us that what lives in our hearts determines how we interact with each other.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “…the end is pre-existent in the means. The means represent the ideal in making and the end in process. And in the long run of history, destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends.”

So if we use the means of anger or hatred, we construct a life of anger and hatred. If we use the means of sinful thoughts and feelings, then the end (what we express to others) can only be sinful.

“A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”-Matthew 7:18.

The quality of our thoughts matters. We cannot help it when we feel fleeting anger.

“Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”-Matthew 26:41.

We can’t depend on the flesh, the outer self; we must turn to the spirit, and nurture our awareness and use of the inner self, the better angel of our nature. Transitory anger is out of our control, but we do choose what we take to heart.

We choose the means with which we build our lives. We are all a part of a great collection of lives. It is this collection that we nurture or harm, with how we think and feel, which leads to how we interact.

If we feel bitter, and brood on our anger, then those means lead to the only end possible: treating each other bitterly. And that contempt reflects back on us, like a room full of mirrors, a chain reaction that goes on forever, burning with resentment in the lake of fire.

With the peace and calm that comes from mindfulness, we view ourselves honestly, and repent. This is the way to break the chains of bitterness, and return to the path Jesus lays out for us.

On his path we learn from mistakes caused by our weakness, because we develop the courage to face our cowardice, and nurture the love necessitated by our shared lives with each other.

On his path we learn only after we judge each other, then face our mistake with honest introspection, because suffering humbles us. So there is no choice but to take up the cross, and follow him.

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”-Isaiah 48:10.

On his path we stumble, fall asleep while on watch, sink when the wind is boisterous, betray each other for a few pieces of silver; and still have the opportunity to humble ourselves, repent, and return to the only thing that can save us: an individual’s love for all.

On his path thoughts and emotions cost us. There are no free rides! Will you pay for anger by taking the venom into your heart? Or will you exchange your pride, and its costly bolstering of your desires, for the lasting, harmonious, buoyant love for all that results from your mindfulness of its necessity?

Take this step; follow his path, the map of which waits in your own lives, and in your own words, for you to read it: you need only faith in love. The revelation that results is the path back to the kingdom of heaven, in which you will be reborn again.

We’ve covered what “born again” means: not judging, but feeling and sharing unconditional love for all; and why we need it: without love, we sabotage ourselves and everyone else; and how to achieve it: be mindful, and accept the billions of other lives, all needing and worthy of dignity, respect, forgiveness, and compassion.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. / For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”-Matthew 11:29, 30.

Despite what Jesus said, we find little about his yoke that is easy or light: mostly because we aren’t meek and lowly in heart, and our souls are anything but restful.

Let us say we do reach that point, what, in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus called “the good ground.” We work and work, until we achieve, through grace and sacrifice, what should be easy; and we are reborn. Then begins our most difficult trial.

When we succeed, our pride swells. With pride as our guide, we fail. Until we learn how to maintain humility in God’s presence, and practice unconditional compassion, and automatic forgiveness, then we’ll have to be reborn again and again.

“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son.”-Matthew 22:2.

We studied this marriage last time. We are the bride, and Jesus is the groom; we are the life, and love makes us whole. This parable doesn’t mention the bride. But that’s because we have other parts to play.

God is the king. And since God is love, then love presides over the kingdom of heaven. As Jesus told Nicodemus:

“…Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”-John 3:3.

So we understand love by feeling and practicing mercy, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, and respect; and when we learn to do these things naturally, we are reborn.

Jesus is the king’s son. He is the door, and we must pass through his lessons of our own free will, in order to reach the kingdom.

“I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”-John 10:9.

To find rest for our souls, all we have to do is follow the example Jesus gave us.

“And [the king] sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.”-Matthew 22:3.

God calls us to love one another: This is the invitation. If we accept, we are born again; through our actions, we invite others.

This is the first path: the servant.

With our wedding, we commit to a life of love, for better or worse, together. But first, we choose to accept or decline the groom. When we say yes to Jesus, then we become the bride, and the servant. These roles combine, as we minister to others; with our comforting of them, we invite them too.

Now we switch to the second path: the invited. After we’re born again, servants come to offer us a chance to show loving kindness.

How we react to the invitation determines our path.

When we’re offered the chance to love life, and we say no, we harm ourselves.

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”-Proverbs 11:17.

No matter how others treat us, if we react with love, then we accept the groom’s proposal. We enter the kingdom of heaven, and live a wonderful life.

No matter how others treat us, if we react with hate, if we refuse to forgive, and be compassionate and merciful, we harm ourselves.

When we deny the groom, we deprive ourselves of heaven. Then, we live a hellish life.

“Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.”-Isaiah 48:10.

This tribulation afflicts and refines us. We resort to this drastic method so we learn how someone else feels, when they hurt: So that, next time, we’ll comfort them when they need it; we’ll accept the invitation, react wisely, and enter the kingdom of heaven.

“Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.”-Matthew 22:4.

One fatling (or fattened calf) would feed an entire village. So multiple fatlings, and oxen too, made a huge, country-wide feast, which celebrated the king’s son getting married, and the propagation of the king’s reign: spreading the word.

Remember, the king invited the people who had already been reborn. After a difficult trial, they succeeded in winning the king’s favor. He honored them, and expected them to honor his son.

“But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”-John 4:14.

God blesses us with everlasting life. God is love, and love is life, which is all around us. For the Hebrews, “everlasting” water meant flowing water. So everlasting life flows from one person to another, a cascading waterfall, gentle brook, the thunder of an ocean, and pouring of a cool drink.

We flow into each other, whether we know it or not, believe it or not, want to or not. For better or worse, we influence others, and shape the quality of all life around us. Acceptance of this awesome responsibility is the door to the kingdom of heaven.

To honor the king’s son, we love one another, as he loves us.

“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.”-John 12:26.

If we commit to this flowing life, which circulates from God, to Jesus, to us, and back again, then God invites us to the marriage. The feast celebrates our covenant: to cherish, honor, and not even in death do we part.

Refusal of his invitation insults the king. And insulting the king is treason.

“But they [who were invited] made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise.”-Matthew 22:5.

Remember, the people who refused the king’s servants were already born again. They had gained the king’s favor, and received an invitation to the wedding.

Then their pride took hold of them.

“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.”-Proverbs 11:2.

They chose to honor their farms and merchandise, what they accomplished on their own. After all, we need our jobs to support our families; and we feel pride in taking care of our own.

Happiness and pride differ greatly, though we often use them interchangeably. By being happy with our success, we also show gratitude for our daily bread. With happiness, we honor life; with pride, we worship our own greatness.

“Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made.”-Isaiah 2:8.

Remember, Jesus is “meek and lowly in heart.” Without reverence for God, for all things, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. We cannot bow, in meek reverence, if we’re prideful.

When we’re reborn, then we love as God does, as Jesus taught.

“He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.”-1 John 2:6.

But, we say, if I don’t tend the farm, or work in the store, my family doesn’t eat. First I have to take care of my family and myself, and then donate what’s left to others.

We never finish looking out for ourselves, or caring for our loved ones. The store needs stocking, and the field needs plowing, every day.

“…No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”-Luke 9:62.

So how can we look forward to others, if we’re always looking back on ourselves?

Since God is everything, love for all is the only way to neglect nothing. That’s why Jesus wants us to seek God first.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”-Matthew 6:33.

By loving God, we love everyone and everything all at once. Jesus gives and teaches us this divine love; in return, we honor his (and our) union with all life.

Keep in mind, whether we pass or fail doesn’t matter, compared to how we react to the test. After they refused the king’s invitation the second time, “the invited” returned to their businesses.

But some went too far, and reacted with hate.

“And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.”-Matthew 22:6.

Back then, the king’s messenger was exempted from harm. Killing him was a crime worthy of death. The proverb still exists today: You don’t “kill the messenger.”

Why? Because we aren’t just killing the servant, who represents the king. Really, we’re destroying the message he delivers. In this case, we murder the celebration of love.

“He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.”-John 13:20.

If we reject the king’s authority, then we renounce his rule, and remove ourselves from his protection, and the abundance of his kingdom.

This is the definition of sin.

So far, Jesus has set two paths before us. As servants, after we’re reborn, we spread the good news (the Old English word is “gospel”). But, if we take the other path, if we’re invited but refuse to tend to each other, we stifle the sharing of the gospel. The former we call ministry; and the latter, sin.

When we refuse to share and receive love, for whatever reason, we pay the ultimate price.

“But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”-Matthew 22:7.

Conquerors burn resistant cities. And love conquers all.

If we exalt ourselves above the king, then we put what we want before the whole world. God humbles us, and forces us to confront our selfishness. Then, when we admit that we refused to accept and share with others, and rejected our angelic potential, we destroy our city of sin.

When we say God burns our cities, we actually mean that our refusal of loving kindness ruined us. We brought disaster on ourselves.

As John the Baptist said of Jesus:

“…I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.”-Luke 3:16.

When we see how we suffered, then we know how others feel when they’re in pain. As we hope for someone to help us, so we understand that others need us.

This is the baptism of fire.

We reap what we sow. We reflect the love or hate others project on us, and vice versa. If they’re mean to us, we’re mean to them. Hate begets hate; but love defeats hate. We can choose to break the chain.

If we kill the messenger, we reject and destroy not only the love God offers us, but the potential for us to be messengers (the Greek word for which is “angelos”). If we deny love, then we reject the better angels of our nature; and, therefore, we condemn ourselves.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”-Proverbs 3:5.

Until we are reborn, we learn everything incorrectly: Our sustenance is selfishness; our goals, temporary. But when we nourish ourselves with God’s will, by accepting instead of judging, our burden becomes much lighter.

However painful and heavy at first, this process humbles us, and teaches us how to be worthy of the invitation to the marriage of all life.

“Then saith [the king] to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.”-Matthew 22:8.

How do we become worthy? How do we achieve the blessing of God’s invitation?

From The Vulgate (the late 4th century Latin translation of the Bible), the word beati (plural of beatus) means “blessings.” That’s where we get “beatitudes.”

During his sermon on the mount (Matt. 5:3-12), Jesus points out the effects and importance of humility, which result from the blessing of being born again.

Blessed are the following: the poor in spirit, they who mourn, the meek, they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, peacemakers, and they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.

In other words, people who are humbled, and pass through the baptism of fire, but react to their apocalypse with wisdom and loving kindness. These are only examples of how to reach that end result. There are as many paths to being born again as there are people.

“Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”-Matthew 7:20.

We are worthy when we realize that what we thought were curses, are actually blessings. Our tribulation allows us to understand suffering, which leads to our blessing of others.

As God gave us strength and faith, which lifted us out of affliction (which God gave us), so we should comfort others (who God gave us). As Jesus feeds our souls with love and acceptance, so we should nourish and nurture others. We do so because it is all God.

We are all a piece of the puzzle, a part, and an aspect of the cosmos. We are small circles, inside a larger, universal circle. So when we harm or help a single part, then we do the same to the whole. Thus, we bring pain or joy on ourselves, and build or burn our cities.

The invited guests weren’t ready, and lost everything. Remember, we are the servants, when we’re born again and bless others. We’re also the invited, who were reborn, grew prideful, and then rejected the offer to share and receive love.

In this parable, we have a third role or path: the uninvited.

“Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage. / So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.”-Matthew 22:9, 10.

When we’re reborn, God invites us to love one another. If we accept, and say yes to Jesus, then we marry all life; we become servants of loving kindness: We share and receive compassion, forgiveness, mercy, and respect with and from everyone and everything.

If we say no, if we refuse to see how we need each other, then we no longer experience the joys of compassion.

The terms good and bad apply to decisions, individual reactions; they are not equal to identity. We aren’t good or bad people; we just make good and bad decisions, with our mindful or mindless reactions.

Before we become servants, we are the invited. Before opportunities invite us, we are the uninvited. So, at one time or another, we are all three paths.

The opportunities present themselves with as many people as we find. Everyone is uninvited, until we invite them.

“We love him, because he first loved us.”-1 John 4:19.

When we’re born again, we marry everyone and everything. Abuse results in divorce. But patience, acceptance, forgiveness, and compassion, i.e., love results in a happy marriage, a beautiful life for all.

Keep in mind, wolves circle our flock, waiting and searching for the weak. We have the potential to do each other great harm, even (or especially) when we act in Jesus’ name.

“…yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”-John 16:2.

Not everyone accepts what we offer.

“And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear you, when ye depart thence, shake off the dust under your feet for a testimony against them. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.”-Mark 6:11.

Jesus told this to his apostles, as he sent them out to spread the word. When we say yes, we become apostles. We do what we can, but we must allow every person to determine their own path, and covenant with life. If they aren’t ready, then plant the seed, and walk on.

When we say yes, we accept all things, even rejection. We do this because, when we reject someone, we want them to respect our path.

When we say no, we set ourselves up for disappointment and tribulation. Without the love offered by others, we have nothing to hold onto, when the floods come.

If we react wisely to the apocalypse we bring on ourselves, we learn how much we need each other, and how much others need us.

With every interaction, we are born again, through our acceptance or rejection. We cycle through everlasting life, becoming new all the time. Therefore, no one is without hope, or above mistakes.

“As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me.”-John 6:57.

This cycle shows us how easy it is to live without despair and hatred. Just love one another, as God loves Jesus, and Jesus loves us; that’s all. But that simplicity circulates through complexity; the finite flows through the infinite. How impossible it is to love everyone! So we pass from the kingdom of heaven to a burnt and decimated city.

Then we see how simple our mistake was. We forgot to accept the marriage of our will to the wills of everyone else. Life becomes beautiful again. Then we realize how impossible it is to combine what we want from a marriage, with what everyone else wants.

So many people; so many covenants!

Like Pilate, we wash our hands of Jesus, and surrender his love to the bloodthirsty mob. And we’re back to a heartless life. We wail and gnash our teeth, until we swear to try harder. We succeed, then succumb to pride, which we mistake for happiness.

Pride usurps humility; so when we serve, it is for our own ends, and not for the well-being of our marriage. The uninvited sense our lack of universal love, and reject us; then, in our confusion and frustration, we surrender to hopelessness.

“Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”-Mark 14:38.

We must accept weakness, just as we say yes to everything else in our marriage. Take it in stride, because we know that we’ll make a new covenant. We’ll rise from the ashes of our self-sabotage. Faith in ourselves and others will breathe into us new, everlasting life.

We are reborn again and again.

KoH: 10 Virgins (part three)

(For the full essay, go here. If you missed Part One, or Part Two, there you go.)

“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.”-Matthew 25:10.

In Jewish custom, the Rabbi performed the marriage ceremony at the bride’s parents’ house. Once the groom arrived, they shut the door. If you weren’t ready, you missed the ceremony. Afterwards, with their torches lit, the virgins danced down the street, leading the marriage procession to the groom’s parents’ house.

Unlike us, the Jewish couple in ancient times didn’t go away on a honeymoon. Instead, at the groom’s parents’ house, they held a week-long celebration. Anyone could come. The doors remained open. People came and went, whether they were wise or foolish, and participated in the most glorious party, celebrating the marriage between love and life.

We are reborn, and begin the path to wisdom by being mindful of what we and others need: Do they need to be forgiven? Forgive them. Do they need compassion? Be compassionate unto them. By practicing in this way, we learn to respect and admire everyone and everything. We practice love until we feel it, without having to stop and think.

We understand that no one is always wise. So we forgive them when they’re foolish. We realize that no one is always a fool, so we admire them when they show wisdom. As we watch them, we’re aware of ourselves wavering: good, bad, wise, foolish.

Being born again means that we choose to become aware of this vacillation, in ourselves and others. And we commit ourselves to wisdom. Then, we become lambs.

Part of wisdom is knowing that, just as we needed time to prepare, other people haven’t learned from experience; they haven’t dedicated themselves to a better life. They are wolves.

Don’t expect a wolf to be a lamb. And, as a lamb, be wary of slipping back into the pack, howling with them as they hunt their neighbors. Just know, more than likely (actually, without a doubt), you will slip. So have patience with them, as you do with yourself; forgive them, and yourself. Have mercy, because the time will come when, during such a slip, you will need mercy.

The door shuts, regardless of whether you’re inside or out.

“Afterward came also the other [foolish] virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.”-Matthew 25:11.

Keep in mind, when Jesus told this parable, he was aware that his Jewish audience knew the custom; they knew of the week-long party, which anyone could attend. But they also knew, if you were outside the shut door, you would miss the ceremony.

There is always another test. But there’s also a potential for finality. In the flesh, I will never get to tell my Grandfather that he was right, that everything I searched for was in the Bible. That door closed. But I can pass it on. I cannot pay him back, but I can pay it forward. That’s what these essays are: What I would say to him, if I could, if I had been ready to enter the door, and attend the ceremony with him.

But I was a small fish (and still am). So the fishermen threw me back. I was a tare, so the farmers separated me from the wheat. Without that heartbreaking, and illuminating experience, I would not be on this journey today. And these essays would not exist.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”-Matthew 7:21.

God’s will for the world is whatever happens. The Lord’s will for us is that we love whatever happens. Even, or especially, if we don’t understand, or approve, or agree, we love because Jesus loves us, because God loves the world, all life, everything: good, evil, wise, foolish, the caterpillar under the log in the middle of the jungle, the murderer on death row: God has enough love for all of it, all of us. That’s why we’re here. This is wisdom.

But if we choose to not love, if we’re unable to understand the necessity for automatic forgiveness, then Jesus shuts the door. We cannot enter, what we’re unwilling to enter. We cannot pass the line we’ve drawn. So we judge and condemn ourselves.

“But he answered [the foolish virgins] and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”-Matthew 25:12.

By failing to prepare, we disrespect the groom, his bride, the other guests, and ourselves. If you remember, from Revelation, the bride is everyone. Plus, the 10 virgins represent everyone. And Jesus is the groom.

So, by failing to prepare, we haven’t shown reverence to God, which is everyone and everything. Solomon taught that reverence to all is the beginning of wisdom. Without wisdom, we are foolish.

When Jesus says he doesn’t know us, it’s because we don’t know love. Wisdom is the understanding that comes from sharing love. Without that awareness, we cannot be born again, and enter the kingdom of heaven.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”-Revelation 3:20.

It might seem to us that Jesus is keeping us out, when, really, we deny him entrance. He didn’t leave us at the altar; we left him. God didn’t abandon the earth; we abandoned him. See the pattern?

Saying “Lord, Lord” means nothing, if we refuse to forgive, and show mercy and compassion.

“And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”-Luke 6:46.

Like the Sower, when we love others, we plant a seed, which needs time to grow. During that time we learn patience: We wait on the Lord. And we learn wisdom: We watch God’s will work itself out, through the apocalypse, and into the marriage of love and life.

But if we don’t follow Jesus’ lessons, and wait until the last second, then we are foolish: We rush out and buy, not allowing time for the seeds to grow. We didn’t even plant any seeds, in the first place. We did nothing!

We can’t expect something to happen, if we refuse to do anything. Sure, the wolves might reject our love. So we don’t even try. But we don’t have to convert them, only comfort them. This requires no words, only our loving presence. In this way, we plant the seed, shine our light, allowing the love that’s larger than us, larger than life, to do the work needed to spread the Word.

“And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.”-Hosea 2:19.

Loving one another seems so very complicated, to the point of being impossible. And it is, until we spend time with it: forgiving each other and ourselves, showing mercy, being compassionate, not judging someone as ugly, but accepting their beauty as it is.

Think of loving kindness as insurance: Some day we will need it. If we can’t love each other, then we’re unable to love ourselves. We feel guilty, when abandoning others to their suffering. We might learn to live with that guilt, but when apocalyptic tribulation comes, we’ll having nothing to hold onto.

“Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”-Matthew 25:13.

This is what it boils down to: watching, always ready, because we’ve prepared ourselves. As we see how necessary it is to forgive ourselves, because we really had no idea what we were doing, we forgive others too.

Jesus lights our torch, invites us to dance and praise life. We accept his love, which seeds our hearts with humility and reverence. His only catch: that we share his seeds with others.

“…freely ye have received, freely give.”-Matthew 10:8.

We enlarge our hearts, leaving self behind, living for all, for God: aware at all times, mindful of suffering that we can comfort.

We give the seeds of mercy to those who are without, the light of compassion to those who live in darkness. We prepare for our foolishness, knowing it will come, that we’ll panic at the worst possible moment. And, in doing so, we stock our refrigerators for our guests, and respect our host by treating everyone the way we would have them treat us: the way God treats Jesus, who is inside all of us.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”-John 14:20.

Before our light goes out, before we despair, we forgive. Always forgive: This renews the torch, keeps us moving, breathing, playing, praying, dancing down the street, leading the marriage procession between love and life.

This is wisdom! It is the practiced instrument that becomes instinctive, second nature becoming first, every instance of love outnumbering the sands on all the shores of the world.

“And he brought [Abraham] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”-Genesis 15:5.

We are and share Abraham’s seed, which is King David’s poetic soul, Solomon’s wisdom, the love, mercy, compassion, and patient forgiveness taught by their descendant, Jesus; handed down to us, so we can keep the fire burning, keep the immovable object moving: choosing mercy, refusing to let sin take root, reacting to the wolves (inside and out) with a strong mind, and a tender heart.

We know of the chain, cause and effect, and refuse to be its puppet. Jesus is my shepherd. I shall not want! The Lord breaks the chain of sin, shatters our bonds, leads us through the wilderness, all so that we can learn to love.

We waver, slip, run back to the pack, back to Egypt, wishing only for the safety of enslavement. But, in our thoughtless fear, if we practice enough ahead of time, our mindfulness returns. Our torches flair anew.

We remember Jesus: how his greatest triumph was dying on a cross, only to be born again. We realize the necessity of our suffering: so that we know how others feel, when they suffer.

Mercy ignites our torch; we shine with compassion, only to be extinguished by pride, reignited by forgiveness. Over and over! Unless we choose to learn from our mistakes, we are never free, always subject to the lash of regret.

“…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; / And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”-John 8:31, 32.

We cannot be free, until we know we’re slaves. We learn wisdom only after realizing how foolish we’ve been. The kingdom of heaven lives within, because the adversary lives within. Jesus gives us a torch, because darkness reigns otherwise.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”-Genesis 1:2.

Let there be light! Waver no more. Commit to the boundless wisdom you carry as a birthright, passed on to you through the covenant, the marriage between love and life. Don’t believe it, be it. The choice is yours: learn or don’t learn, wise or foolish, mindless wolves, or mindful lambs.

Just don’t take too long, because the door will shut: not forever, but for one person, one chance, which never comes again. We cannot step in the same river twice. Everything changes, grows, endures, and transforms. Cleanse yourself; be reborn, through love for one another: automatic forgiveness, instinctive mercy, and everlasting compassion. This is the way to the Promised Land.

“…As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. // …Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.”-Joshua 1:5, 9.

We won’t journey forever. The day will come when we cross the Jordan, pushing back the waters, following the Ark of the Covenant, and our leader, Joshua, our example, Jesus, the one and only Jehovah, which is all of us, and everything else.

This is wisdom. This is Jesus.

(For the full essay, go here. If you missed Part One, go here.)

Don’t be too frustrated with yourself because of this. In the different kinds of soil that Jesus describes, the best of us live on stony ground. We hear and feel the Word, and love all things. But we are lambs among wolves.

Jesus warned us of this.

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”-Matthew 24:12.

We react based on how others treat us: cause and effect. This is natural. But the Bible (and Jesus’ lessons specifically) exist to warn us of our instinctive, but harmful behavior.

So if we sin because others sin against us, then, instead, we can choose to break the chain. We can forgive those who trespass against us, and thereby forgive and confront our own weaknesses. We can remove the stones from our ground, and out of our hearts, transforming temporary love (limited fuel) into perpetual motion, by choosing to accept and reflect the unending love of God, which is all around us.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”-Matthew 10:16.

When we carry extra oil, then we react to the wolves around us by being wise as serpents and harmless as doves: having a strong mind and tender heart.

If we let our minds weaken, or our hearts become like stone, then we add another link to the chain, and separate ourselves from the good fish, the nourishing wheat. This is foolishness.

God is everything. So love is everything, everywhere. In other words, we fuel our torches just by reaching out with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

This takes practice. Be patient with your patience.

Before we move on, note that Jesus is both the bridegroom and the light given by the lamps. More personally, mindfulness of mercy and compassion lights the torch. Our love for one another illuminates the way. And forgiveness renews the flame.

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”-Matthew 25:5.

Everything takes time. Don’t panic! With patience, we learn humility; with humility, we learn reverence; and with reverence, we gain wisdom.

When the Jewish couple of Jesus’ time were to be married, the virgins kept the bride company, at the bride’s parents’ house. They waited for the groom, who could be held up for any number of reasons: working out the dowry, making arrangements at his parents’ house. No one knew when everything would be ready, when the groom would come for the bride.

The groom could arrive that night, the next night, or not for a couple of weeks. Nobody knew for sure. Part of the fun for the groom was to surprise the bridal party, even catch them napping.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”-Psalm 27:14.

Going back as far as their Babylonian exile, the Hebrews were convinced that God had forsaken them.

“… for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.”-Ezekiel 9:9.

In other words, the groom didn’t just tarry, he left us at the altar.

No matter how many times God proves that he will not abandon us, we surrender when things go wrong. This is natural. Even Jesus (quoting Psalm 22:1) felt this powerful, all-too-human emotion, when he was on the cross:

“…My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”-Matthew 27:46.

If, at his most horrifying and painful moment, he thought God had forsaken him, then we can expect no better from ourselves. When in doubt, we go into fight or flight mode, and cut ourselves off from love. Even without choosing mindfully, we bear the responsibility of acting thoughtlessly. We wish for wolves to be lambs, and when they aren’t, we become wolves too.

Just because it’s natural doesn’t make it right. Just because it seems impossible, doesn’t mean we should refuse to try. Practice ahead of time, during the smaller tribulations. Don’t give up on love. Don’t panic. The groom needs time, because we need time to make ourselves ready. I know we tire, and fall asleep on watch (like Peter, James, and John in Gethsemane).

“Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”-Mark 14:38.

Temptation should not be understood as we think of it today, as seducing for evil purposes. In the Bible, it translates as “a test.” The groom tests our reactions, to see if we are ready to be born again.

“…For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”-Deuteronomy 13.3. (Taken from the English Standard Version.)

We can’t be physically, literally perfect. We make mistakes. Nor can we stay awake all the time. We must sleep. But we can be perfect in how we follow, and are tested by, Jesus’ lessons: not all at once, right off the bat, to be certain. But over time, with mindfulness, we can learn to see God everywhere, in everything.

We can stay awake in our hearts, minds, and souls.

We learn through temptation, by the tests God provides, like manna from heaven. If not for the apocalyptic results of our failed attempts, we would never learn how to be delivered from evil. These small temptations prepare us for the greater revelations, the more difficult tests.

Tribulation makes us ready.

“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.”-Matthew 25:6.

When he finished all the arrangements, part of the Jewish marriage custom was for the groom to send a messenger. That way, the bride-to-be and the virgins received some advance warning.

For us, now, this means we get some warning prior to a test. It may not be much, a few seconds to prime our awareness, and be ready.

We never know when the opportunity will come for us to forgive, or show mercy and compassion. It often goes by so quickly, that we miss it altogether.

By showing mercy, we feel better: We lighten our burden. So when life tests us through other people, we not only help them, but ourselves too.

“Be ye ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”-Luke 12:40.

We act wisely by keeping our torches lit, with forgiveness always in our hearts, acting with mercy and compassion. Remain aware of beauty and love, the connection of all things, which is God.

When we treat others kindly, they love us: cause and effect; maybe not all at once, so be patient. We love our family and friends because they love us. So if we forgive them, because they forgive us, let us share this with everyone.

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”-Luke 6:37.

With mindfulness, we break the old chain, in which we react foolishly to indifference and hostility; and begin a new chain. When we behave wisely, we no longer have to worry about fixing what our thoughtlessness ruined. We don’t have to worry at all: just be aware.

Everyone you meet needs you. And you need everyone you meet. But if we aren’t prepared, if we refuse to see love and beauty as the natural state of things, the state unadulterated by our judgmental perception, then we miss the chance to heal and prepare ourselves.

“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. / And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.”-Matthew 25:7, 8.

You ever turn the key, and your car won’t start? Or flip the switch, and the light bulb dies? Or open the refrigerator, only to find it empty?

We must perform maintenance. We must learn algebra and trigonometry before we can understand calculus; walk, before we run. Our small tests prepare us. If we don’t learn from them, we are foolish.

Forgiveness maintains the flame of love. If we think that we can skip it, that someone doesn’t deserve our mercy and compassion, then our flame dies. We lose, by not loving others.

“John [the Baptist] answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”-John 3:27.

God tests us, knowing we won’t pass, because we aren’t mindful of love. We fail, so that we see our foolishness, and learn wisdom. We suffer the apocalypse, so that our humiliation teaches us humility, so that we choose to be born again, participating in the marriage between love and life.

I can’t tell you why it has to be that way. I don’t know why I have to learn the hard way. I only see what happens. And I see, in the occurrence, both my folly, and the seeds of wisdom. The why doesn’t matter so much as the how.

Jesus is wisdom: the how, the way out of this mess that we foolishly created, believing we could live without loving one another.

“But the wise [virgins] answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough [oil] for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”-Matthew 25:9.

When we see the refrigerator empty, then we know that we have to go to the grocery store. If we don’t check our food and drinks before our guests arrive, and, only then do we see we’re out, that is foolishness.

We laugh at the thought of being so unprepared, just as the Jews must have, when they heard Jesus tell this parable. The disrespect for our guests, our irresponsible actions as host, is inconceivable.

We might try to borrow from our neighbors. But it’s not their fault that we were unprepared. The blame lies with us. The virgins had one task: to be ready. Even though they fell asleep, and the messenger woke them at midnight, the wise ones had learned from past mistakes and heartbreaks. They were ready.

By not being honest with ourselves about our foolishness, yet believing that we’ve covered every base, we skip our tests. Then, when it comes time for our final exam, when the guests are due, we face the worst tragedy of all:

We’re too late.

(To be continued in Part Three.)

We choose how to react to our experiences. Whether thoughtlessly or mindfully, we bear the responsibility of adding another link to the chain, or breaking it to be born again.

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.”-Matthew 25:1.

Jesus shares this parable right in the middle of his discourse on the Second Coming, and the destruction of Jerusalem (which happened in 70 A.D., some 37 years after his crucifixion). That’s what he refers to, when he begins with “Then….”

So this parable applies to, and elucidates what Jesus said about “Judgment Day.” The kingdom of heaven results from the destruction of our world. Or, more personally, we are born again when we participate in the marriage between love and life.

Indeed, Revelation (the final book in the Bible) climaxes with the union between us and Jesus.

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”-Revelation 19:7.

We make ourselves ready by acknowledging the folly of our pride, arrogance, and cruelty. When life tears us down, we learn and change from the experience. We either double-down on our foolishness, or gain wisdom: We choose our path based on how we react to apocalyptic experiences.

Jesus is the bridegroom.

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”-Luke 5:35.

More personally, Jesus is our love for one another: the wisdom to understand that, without love, we are weak; without love, we fake strength, which causes sin. So when someone wrongs us (or we harm them), we know it’s because of their (or our) weakness.

We do not punish the weak, because then we would need to condemn ourselves as well.

“…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”-John 8:7.

We are all mortal, and ignorant of what lies outside our experience. So mercy, compassion, and forgiveness should occur automatically. This requires us to be mindful, and practice love at all times. This is wisdom.

We’ve been working on “the kingdom of heaven” for several essays now. Basically, we are in the kingdom if we react wisely to Jesus’ lessons. The kingdom is our understanding of his lessons, and our commitment to live by them.

“…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”-Luke 17:21.

So the kingdom is the love we feel and share. It is the potential within us, the realization of our better nature, our very heart, soul, mind, and strength.

“The ten virgins” represent all of us, the whole spectrum of humanity. Recall the first verse of a previous “kingdom” essay.

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.”-Matthew 13:47.

From every kind, the angels separate the good fish from the bad, and the wheat from the tares. In the very next verse, as we’ve seen in previous essays, the virgins actually separate themselves, based on what they learned (or didn’t learn) from experience, how they react to their preparation for the marriage.

Our final term, in this first verse, is the “lamp” that each virgin carries. We’ll look deeper into this one as we go.

For now, let us note that all ten virgins, all of us, we all carry a lamp.

“And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.”-Matthew 25:2.

Right away, in this second verse, we see the point of the parable. Don’t misunderstand the terms. No one is all good, or all bad. Sometimes, we make foolish decisions, or we react wisely. Sometimes, we do the right thing; other times, the wrong thing.

We must be born again to see our variability, and mindful enough to commit to one or the other. Through our marriage with the Lamb, and our personal covenant with life, we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of wisdom, and are, thereby, reborn. Like inertia, love struggles to begin, but continues easily, once we get moving.

If we react wisely to tribulation, the kingdom of heaven follows. Wisdom is understanding why we need love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness: It was the lack of them that brought us to our day of reckoning.

Wisdom can be hard to define. Luckily, we have King Solomon. As the son and heir of King David (and Jesus’ ancestor), when the Lord appeared to him, and asked him what he wanted, this is what he said:

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad….”-1 Kings 3:9.

If you could ask anything of God, and know that the Lord would grant your request, what would you ask for? Solomon had wisdom before God granted his wish for it. This is true of us all.

Jesus (our love within) takes what we offer (our talent), and multiplies our few loaves and fish, allowing us to feed thousands. If we use wisdom in being kind to others, we gain more.

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.”-1 Kings 4:29.

For now, we note that wisdom is understanding, discerning honestly between good and bad. It is largeness of heart: such a great empathy that it could be likened to all the sand on the shores of every beach in the world.

With understanding, we don’t have to agree or approve. We just need to see and feel others so deeply, that we know why they did what they did. Leave yourself behind. When trying to understand someone, judge based on their thoughts and feelings, not yours.

If we practice this mindfully, it occurs automatically, and our understanding will be instinctive. This is wisdom.

“They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. / But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”-Matthew 25:3, 4.

Jesus develops the parable quickly, defining and distinguishing wisdom and foolishness: We behave wisely when we prepare, and foolishly when we do not make ourselves ready.

“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.”-Luke 12:39.

We don’t know when disaster will strike, or when we’ll have the opportunity to forgive, show mercy and compassion. It’s like the musician’s nightmare: suddenly called onto stage, in front of a packed house, and given an instrument they don’t know how to play.

We can’t prepare for every eventuality. We’re unable to learn every instrument, and maintain familiarity with them at all times. But we can learn the basics of musicianship, and love.

“…Behold, the fear [reverence] of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”-Job 28:28.

God is all things. So to revere the Lord is to admire and respect all things. That is the Bible’s main point. If we choose to love and respect everyone and everything, and do so mindfully at all times, that is wisdom. Or, rather, it’s the first step along the path. As Solomon wrote:

“The fear [reverence] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”-Proverbs 1:7.

The translations for the last two quotes are a little misleading. By fear, what they meant to write (as we’d use the word today) is reverence. Don’t be afraid of sharing love, or rejoicing in life. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. This is reverence.

The “lamps” that the virgins carried were actually torches.

Around the top of the torch, they wrapped rags soaked in oil; with enough in reserve, the torch lasted for several hours. The foolish virgins lit their torches, but failed to carry any extra oil with them. So their light wouldn’t last for long.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”-John 8:12.

Jesus said he was many things, but the most common and often-repeated metaphor was light. Throughout the millennia, many religious and spiritual practices understood light as synonymous with nirvana, enlightenment, and being reborn.

So the lamps (or torches) produce light, which is Jesus, who is love. The oil maintains light. So love perseveres via the display of light, and the reapplication of rags soaked in oil.

Like inertia, our sharing of love makes it easier for us to continue sharing it. But if we don’t choose to shine our light on others, if, instead, we allow their cold hearts to influence our reactions, then love becomes almost impossible.

Remember the Parable of the Sower:

“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; / Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”-Matthew 13:20, 21.

In other words, when Jesus lights our torch, at first we feel love, if we are ready to receive it. But when someone else does something hateful and spiteful, they offend the foolish virgins; and, with no extra oil (without forgiveness), tribulation extinguishes love.

(To be continued in Part Two.)

(This one is a little long, about 19 pages. I recommend more bite-sized chunks: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three. You can always reach these again by going to the Intro/Contents link at the top of the page, and clicking on the title of this essay in the contents.)

We choose how to react to our experiences. Whether thoughtlessly or mindfully, we bear the responsibility of adding another link to the chain, or breaking it to be born again.

“Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.”-Matthew 25:1.

Jesus shares this parable right in the middle of his discourse on the Second Coming, and the destruction of Jerusalem (which happened in 70 A.D., some 37 years after his crucifixion). That’s what he refers to, when he begins with “Then….”

So this parable applies to, and elucidates what Jesus said about “Judgment Day.” The kingdom of heaven results from the destruction of our world. Or, more personally, we are born again when we participate in the marriage between love and life.

Indeed, Revelation (the final book in the Bible) climaxes with the union between us and Jesus.

“Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”-Revelation 19:7.

We make ourselves ready by acknowledging the folly of our pride, arrogance, and cruelty. When life tears us down, we learn and change from the experience. We either double-down on our foolishness, or gain wisdom: We choose our path based on how we react to apocalyptic experiences.

Jesus is the bridegroom.

“But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”-Luke 5:35.

More personally, Jesus is our love for one another: the wisdom to understand that, without love, we are weak; without love, we fake strength, which causes sin. So when someone wrongs us (or we harm them), we know it’s because of their (or our) weakness.

We do not punish the weak, because then we would need to condemn ourselves as well.

“…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”-John 8:7.

We are all mortal, and ignorant of what lies outside our experience. So mercy, compassion, and forgiveness should occur automatically. This requires us to be mindful, and practice love at all times. This is wisdom.

We’ve been working on “the kingdom of heaven” for several essays now. Basically, we are in the kingdom if we react wisely to Jesus’ lessons. The kingdom is our understanding of his lessons, and our commitment to live by them.

“…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”-Luke 17:21.

So the kingdom is the love we feel and share. It is the potential within us, the realization of our better nature, our very heart, soul, mind, and strength.

“The ten virgins” represent all of us, the whole spectrum of humanity. Recall the first verse of a previous “kingdom” essay.

“Again the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind.”-Matthew 13:47.

From every kind, the angels separate the good fish from the bad, and the wheat from the tares. In the very next verse, as we’ve seen in previous essays, the virgins actually separate themselves, based on what they learned (or didn’t learn) from experience, how they react to their preparation for the marriage.

Our final term, in this first verse, is the “lamp” that each virgin carries. We’ll look deeper into this one as we go.

For now, let us note that all ten virgins, all of us, we all carry a lamp.

“And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.”-Matthew 25:2.

Right away, in this second verse, we see the point of the parable. Don’t misunderstand the terms. No one is all good, or all bad. Sometimes, we make foolish decisions, or we react wisely. Sometimes, we do the right thing; other times, the wrong thing.

We must be born again to see our variability, and mindful enough to commit to one or the other. Through our marriage with the Lamb, and our personal covenant with life, we dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of wisdom, and are, thereby, reborn. Like inertia, love struggles to begin, but continues easily, once we get moving.

If we react wisely to tribulation, the kingdom of heaven follows. Wisdom is understanding why we need love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness: It was the lack of them that brought us to our day of reckoning.

Wisdom can be hard to define. Luckily, we have King Solomon. As the son and heir of King David (and Jesus’ ancestor), when the Lord appeared to him, and asked him what he wanted, this is what he said:

“Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad….”-1 Kings 3:9.

If you could ask anything of God, and know that the Lord would grant your request, what would you ask for? Solomon had wisdom before God granted his wish for it. This is true of us all.

Jesus (our love within) takes what we offer (our talent), and multiplies our few loaves and fish, allowing us to feed thousands. If we use wisdom in being kind to others, we gain more.

“And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore.”-1 Kings 4:29.

For now, we note that wisdom is understanding, discerning honestly between good and bad. It is largeness of heart: such a great empathy that it could be likened to all the sand on the shores of every beach in the world.

With understanding, we don’t have to agree or approve. We just need to see and feel others so deeply, that we know why they did what they did. Leave yourself behind. When trying to understand someone, judge based on their thoughts and feelings, not yours.

If we practice this mindfully, it occurs automatically, and our understanding will be instinctive. This is wisdom.

“They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them. / But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.”-Matthew 25:3, 4.

Jesus develops the parable quickly, defining and distinguishing wisdom and foolishness: We behave wisely when we prepare, and foolishly when we do not make ourselves ready.

“And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through.”-Luke 12:39.

We don’t know when disaster will strike, or when we’ll have the opportunity to forgive, show mercy and compassion. It’s like the musician’s nightmare: suddenly called onto stage, in front of a packed house, and given an instrument they don’t know how to play.

We can’t prepare for every eventuality. We’re unable to learn every instrument, and maintain familiarity with them at all times. But we can learn the basics of musicianship, and love.

“…Behold, the fear [reverence] of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”-Job 28:28.

God is all things. So to revere the Lord is to admire and respect all things. That is the Bible’s main point. If we choose to love and respect everyone and everything, and do so mindfully at all times, that is wisdom. Or, rather, it’s the first step along the path. As Solomon wrote:

“The fear [reverence] of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”-Proverbs 1:7.

The translations for the last two quotes are a little misleading. By fear, what they meant to write (as we’d use the word today) is reverence. Don’t be afraid of sharing love, or rejoicing in life. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. This is reverence.

The “lamps” that the virgins carried were actually torches.

Around the top of the torch, they wrapped rags soaked in oil; with enough in reserve, the torch lasted for several hours. The foolish virgins lit their torches, but failed to carry any extra oil with them. So their light wouldn’t last for long.

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”-John 8:12.

Jesus said he was many things, but the most common and often-repeated metaphor was light. Throughout the millennia, many religious and spiritual practices understood light as synonymous with nirvana, enlightenment, and being reborn.

So the lamps (or torches) produce light, which is Jesus, who is love. The oil maintains light. So love perseveres via the display of light, and the reapplication of rags soaked in oil.

Like inertia, our sharing of love makes it easier for us to continue sharing it. But if we don’t choose to shine our light on others, if, instead, we allow their cold hearts to influence our reactions, then love becomes almost impossible.

Remember the Parable of the Sower:

“But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; / Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”-Matthew 13:20, 21.

In other words, when Jesus lights our torch, at first we feel love, if we are ready to receive it. But when someone else does something hateful and spiteful, they offend the foolish virgins; and, with no extra oil (without forgiveness), tribulation extinguishes love.

Don’t be too frustrated with yourself because of this. In the different kinds of soil that Jesus describes, the best of us live on stony ground. We hear and feel the Word, and love all things. But we are lambs among wolves.

Jesus warned us of this.

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”-Matthew 24:12.

We react based on how others treat us: cause and effect. This is natural. But the Bible (and Jesus’ lessons specifically) exist to warn us of our instinctive, but harmful behavior.

So if we sin because others sin against us, then, instead, we can choose to break the chain. We can forgive those who trespass against us, and thereby forgive and confront our own weaknesses. We can remove the stones from our ground, and out of our hearts, transforming temporary love (limited fuel) into perpetual motion, by choosing to accept and reflect the unending love of God, which is all around us.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”-Matthew 10:16.

When we carry extra oil, then we react to the wolves around us by being wise as serpents and harmless as doves: having a strong mind and tender heart.

If we let our minds weaken, or our hearts become like stone, then we add another link to the chain, and separate ourselves from the good fish, the nourishing wheat. This is foolishness.

God is everything. So love is everything, everywhere. In other words, we fuel our torches just by reaching out with mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.

This takes practice. Be patient with your patience.

Before we move on, note that Jesus is both the bridegroom and the light given by the lamps. More personally, mindfulness of mercy and compassion lights the torch. Our love for one another illuminates the way. And forgiveness renews the flame.

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”-Matthew 25:5.

Everything takes time. Don’t panic! With patience, we learn humility; with humility, we learn reverence; and with reverence, we gain wisdom.

When the Jewish couple of Jesus’ time were to be married, the virgins kept the bride company, at the bride’s parents’ house. They waited for the groom, who could be held up for any number of reasons: working out the dowry, making arrangements at his parents’ house. No one knew when everything would be ready, when the groom would come for the bride.

The groom could arrive that night, the next night, or not for a couple of weeks. Nobody knew for sure. Part of the fun for the groom was to surprise the bridal party, even catch them napping.

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”-Psalm 27:14.

Going back as far as their Babylonian exile, the Hebrews were convinced that God had forsaken them.

“… for they say, The LORD hath forsaken the earth, and the LORD seeth not.”-Ezekiel 9:9.

In other words, the groom didn’t just tarry, he left us at the altar.

No matter how many times God proves that he will not abandon us, we surrender when things go wrong. This is natural. Even Jesus (quoting Psalm 22:1) felt this powerful, all-too-human emotion, when he was on the cross:

“…My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”-Matthew 27:46.

If, at his most horrifying and painful moment, he thought God had forsaken him, then we can expect no better from ourselves. When in doubt, we go into fight or flight mode, and cut ourselves off from love. Even without choosing mindfully, we bear the responsibility of acting thoughtlessly. We wish for wolves to be lambs, and when they aren’t, we become wolves too.

Just because it’s natural doesn’t make it right. Just because it seems impossible, doesn’t mean we should refuse to try. Practice ahead of time, during the smaller tribulations. Don’t give up on love. Don’t panic. The groom needs time, because we need time to make ourselves ready. I know we tire, and fall asleep on watch (like Peter, James, and John in Gethsemane).

“Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”-Mark 14:38.

Temptation should not be understood as we think of it today, as seducing for evil purposes. In the Bible, it translates as “a test.” The groom tests our reactions, to see if we are ready to be born again.

“…For the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”-Deuteronomy 13.3. (Taken from the English Standard Version.)

We can’t be physically, literally perfect. We make mistakes. Nor can we stay awake all the time. We must sleep. But we can be perfect in how we follow, and are tested by, Jesus’ lessons: not all at once, right off the bat, to be certain. But over time, with mindfulness, we can learn to see God everywhere, in everything.

We can stay awake in our hearts, minds, and souls.

We learn through temptation, by the tests God provides, like manna from heaven. If not for the apocalyptic results of our failed attempts, we would never learn how to be delivered from evil. These small temptations prepare us for the greater revelations, the more difficult tests.

Tribulation makes us ready.

“And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.”-Matthew 25:6.

When he finished all the arrangements, part of the Jewish marriage custom was for the groom to send a messenger. That way, the bride-to-be and the virgins received some advance warning.

For us, now, this means we get some warning prior to a test. It may not be much, a few seconds to prime our awareness, and be ready.

We never know when the opportunity will come for us to forgive, or show mercy and compassion. It often goes by so quickly, that we miss it altogether.

By showing mercy, we feel better: We lighten our burden. So when life tests us through other people, we not only help them, but ourselves too.

“Be ye ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”-Luke 12:40.

We act wisely by keeping our torches lit, with forgiveness always in our hearts, acting with mercy and compassion. Remain aware of beauty and love, the connection of all things, which is God.

When we treat others kindly, they love us: cause and effect; maybe not all at once, so be patient. We love our family and friends because they love us. So if we forgive them, because they forgive us, let us share this with everyone.

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”-Luke 6:37.

With mindfulness, we break the old chain, in which we react foolishly to indifference and hostility; and begin a new chain. When we behave wisely, we no longer have to worry about fixing what our thoughtlessness ruined. We don’t have to worry at all: just be aware.

Everyone you meet needs you. And you need everyone you meet. But if we aren’t prepared, if we refuse to see love and beauty as the natural state of things, the state unadulterated by our judgmental perception, then we miss the chance to heal and prepare ourselves.

“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. / And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.”-Matthew 25:7, 8.

You ever turn the key, and your car won’t start? Or flip the switch, and the light bulb dies? Or open the refrigerator, only to find it empty?

We must perform maintenance. We must learn algebra and trigonometry before we can understand calculus; walk, before we run. Our small tests prepare us. If we don’t learn from them, we are foolish.

Forgiveness maintains the flame of love. If we think that we can skip it, that someone doesn’t deserve our mercy and compassion, then our flame dies. We lose, by not loving others.

“John [the Baptist] answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.”-John 3:27.

God tests us, knowing we won’t pass, because we aren’t mindful of love. We fail, so that we see our foolishness, and learn wisdom. We suffer the apocalypse, so that our humiliation teaches us humility, so that we choose to be born again, participating in the marriage between love and life.

I can’t tell you why it has to be that way. I don’t know why I have to learn the hard way. I only see what happens. And I see, in the occurrence, both my folly, and the seeds of wisdom. The why doesn’t matter so much as the how.

Jesus is wisdom: the how, the way out of this mess that we foolishly created, believing we could live without loving one another.

“But the wise [virgins] answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough [oil] for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.”-Matthew 25:9.

When we see the refrigerator empty, then we know that we have to go to the grocery store. If we don’t check our food and drinks before our guests arrive, and, only then do we see we’re out, that is foolishness.

We laugh at the thought of being so unprepared, just as the Jews must have, when they heard Jesus tell this parable. The disrespect for our guests, our irresponsible actions as host, is inconceivable.

We might try to borrow from our neighbors. But it’s not their fault that we were unprepared. The blame lies with us. The virgins had one task: to be ready. Even though they fell asleep, and the messenger woke them at midnight, the wise ones had learned from past mistakes and heartbreaks. They were ready.

By not being honest with ourselves about our foolishness, yet believing that we’ve covered every base, we skip our tests. Then, when it comes time for our final exam, when the guests are due, we face the worst tragedy of all:

We’re too late.

“And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.”-Matthew 25:10.

In Jewish custom, the Rabbi performed the marriage ceremony at the bride’s parents’ house. Once the groom arrived, they shut the door. If you weren’t ready, you missed the ceremony. Afterwards, with their torches lit, the virgins danced down the street, leading the marriage procession to the groom’s parents’ house.

Unlike us, the Jewish couple in ancient times didn’t go away on a honeymoon. Instead, at the groom’s parents’ house, they held a week-long celebration. Anyone could come. The doors remained open. People came and went, whether they were wise or foolish, and participated in the most glorious party, celebrating the marriage between love and life.

We are reborn, and begin the path to wisdom by being mindful of what we and others need: Do they need to be forgiven? Forgive them. Do they need compassion? Be compassionate unto them. By practicing in this way, we learn to respect and admire everyone and everything. We practice love until we feel it, without having to stop and think.

We understand that no one is always wise. So we forgive them when they’re foolish. We realize that no one is always a fool, so we admire them when they show wisdom. As we watch them, we’re aware of ourselves wavering: good, bad, wise, foolish.

Being born again means that we choose to become aware of this vacillation, in ourselves and others. And we commit ourselves to wisdom. Then, we become lambs.

Part of wisdom is knowing that, just as we needed time to prepare, other people haven’t learned from experience; they haven’t dedicated themselves to a better life. They are wolves.

Don’t expect a wolf to be a lamb. And, as a lamb, be wary of slipping back into the pack, howling with them as they hunt their neighbors. Just know, more than likely (actually, without a doubt), you will slip. So have patience with them, as you do with yourself; forgive them, and yourself. Have mercy, because the time will come when, during such a slip, you will need mercy.

The door shuts, regardless of whether you’re inside or out.

“Afterward came also the other [foolish] virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.”-Matthew 25:11.

Keep in mind, when Jesus told this parable, he was aware that his Jewish audience knew the custom; they knew of the week-long party, which anyone could attend. But they also knew, if you were outside the shut door, you would miss the ceremony.

There is always another test. But there’s also a potential for finality. In the flesh, I will never get to tell my Grandfather that he was right, that everything I searched for was in the Bible. That door closed. But I can pass it on. I cannot pay him back, but I can pay it forward. That’s what these essays are: What I would say to him, if I could, if I had been ready to enter the door, and attend the ceremony with him.

But I was a small fish (and still am). So the fishermen threw me back. I was a tare, so the farmers separated me from the wheat. Without that heartbreaking, and illuminating experience, I would not be on this journey today. And these essays would not exist.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”-Matthew 7:21.

God’s will for the world is whatever happens. The Lord’s will for us is that we love whatever happens. Even, or especially, if we don’t understand, or approve, or agree, we love because Jesus loves us, because God loves the world, all life, everything: good, evil, wise, foolish, the caterpillar under the log in the middle of the jungle, the murderer on death row: God has enough love for all of it, all of us. That’s why we’re here. This is wisdom.

But if we choose to not love, if we’re unable to understand the necessity for automatic forgiveness, then Jesus shuts the door. We cannot enter, what we’re unwilling to enter. We cannot pass the line we’ve drawn. So we judge and condemn ourselves.

“But he answered [the foolish virgins] and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”-Matthew 25:12.

By failing to prepare, we disrespect the groom, his bride, the other guests, and ourselves. If you remember, from Revelation, the bride is everyone. Plus, the 10 virgins represent everyone. And Jesus is the groom.

So, by failing to prepare, we haven’t shown reverence to God, which is everyone and everything. Solomon taught that reverence to all is the beginning of wisdom. Without wisdom, we are foolish.

When Jesus says he doesn’t know us, it’s because we don’t know love. Wisdom is the understanding that comes from sharing love. Without that awareness, we cannot be born again, and enter the kingdom of heaven.

“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”-Revelation 3:20.

It might seem to us that Jesus is keeping us out, when, really, we deny him entrance. He didn’t leave us at the altar; we left him. God didn’t abandon the earth; we abandoned him. See the pattern?

Saying “Lord, Lord” means nothing, if we refuse to forgive, and show mercy and compassion.

“And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”-Luke 6:46.

Like the Sower, when we love others, we plant a seed, which needs time to grow. During that time we learn patience: We wait on the Lord. And we learn wisdom: We watch God’s will work itself out, through the apocalypse, and into the marriage of love and life.

But if we don’t follow Jesus’ lessons, and wait until the last second, then we are foolish: We rush out and buy, not allowing time for the seeds to grow. We didn’t even plant any seeds, in the first place. We did nothing!

We can’t expect something to happen, if we refuse to do anything. Sure, the wolves might reject our love. So we don’t even try. But we don’t have to convert them, only comfort them. This requires no words, only our loving presence. In this way, we plant the seed, shine our light, allowing the love that’s larger than us, larger than life, to do the work needed to spread the Word.

“And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies.”-Hosea 2:19.

Loving one another seems so very complicated, to the point of being impossible. And it is, until we spend time with it: forgiving each other and ourselves, showing mercy, being compassionate, not judging someone as ugly, but accepting their beauty as it is.

Think of loving kindness as insurance: Some day we will need it. If we can’t love each other, then we’re unable to love ourselves. We feel guilty, when abandoning others to their suffering. We might learn to live with that guilt, but when apocalyptic tribulation comes, we’ll having nothing to hold onto.

“Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.”-Matthew 25:13.

This is what it boils down to: watching, always ready, because we’ve prepared ourselves. As we see how necessary it is to forgive ourselves, because we really had no idea what we were doing, we forgive others too.

Jesus lights our torch, invites us to dance and praise life. We accept his love, which seeds our hearts with humility and reverence. His only catch: that we share his seeds with others.

“…freely ye have received, freely give.”-Matthew 10:8.

We enlarge our hearts, leaving self behind, living for all, for God: aware at all times, mindful of suffering that we can comfort.

We give the seeds of mercy to those who are without, the light of compassion to those who live in darkness. We prepare for our foolishness, knowing it will come, that we’ll panic at the worst possible moment. And, in doing so, we stock our refrigerators for our guests, and respect our host by treating everyone the way we would have them treat us: the way God treats Jesus, who is inside all of us.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”-John 14:20.

Before our light goes out, before we despair, we forgive. Always forgive: This renews the torch, keeps us moving, breathing, playing, praying, dancing down the street, leading the marriage procession between love and life.

This is wisdom! It is the practiced instrument that becomes instinctive, second nature becoming first, every instance of love outnumbering the sands on all the shores of the world.

“And he brought [Abraham] forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.”-Genesis 15:5.

We are and share Abraham’s seed, which is King David’s poetic soul, Solomon’s wisdom, the love, mercy, compassion, and patient forgiveness taught by their descendant, Jesus; handed down to us, so we can keep the fire burning, keep the immovable object moving: choosing mercy, refusing to let sin take root, reacting to the wolves (inside and out) with a strong mind, and a tender heart.

We know of the chain, cause and effect, and refuse to be its puppet. Jesus is my shepherd. I shall not want! The Lord breaks the chain of sin, shatters our bonds, leads us through the wilderness, all so that we can learn to love.

We waver, slip, run back to the pack, back to Egypt, wishing only for the safety of enslavement. But, in our thoughtless fear, if we practice enough ahead of time, our mindfulness returns. Our torches flair anew.

We remember Jesus: how his greatest triumph was dying on a cross, only to be born again. We realize the necessity of our suffering: so that we know how others feel, when they suffer.

Mercy ignites our torch; we shine with compassion, only to be extinguished by pride, reignited by forgiveness. Over and over! Unless we choose to learn from our mistakes, we are never free, always subject to the lash of regret.

“…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; / And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”-John 8:31, 32.

We cannot be free, until we know we’re slaves. We learn wisdom only after realizing how foolish we’ve been. The kingdom of heaven lives within, because the adversary lives within. Jesus gives us a torch, because darkness reigns otherwise.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”-Genesis 1:2.

Let there be light! Waver no more. Commit to the boundless wisdom you carry as a birthright, passed on to you through the covenant, the marriage between love and life. Don’t believe it, be it. The choice is yours: learn or don’t learn, wise or foolish, mindless wolves, or mindful lambs.

Just don’t take too long, because the door will shut: not forever, but for one person, one chance, which never comes again. We cannot step in the same river twice. Everything changes, grows, endures, and transforms. Cleanse yourself; be reborn, through love for one another: automatic forgiveness, instinctive mercy, and everlasting compassion. This is the way to the Promised Land.

“…As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. // …Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.”-Joshua 1:5, 9.

We won’t journey forever. The day will come when we cross the Jordan, pushing back the waters, following the Ark of the Covenant, and our leader, Joshua, our example, Jesus, the one and only Jehovah, which is all of us, and everything else.

This is wisdom. This is Jesus.

Kingdom of Heaven: Talent

Within the framework of our own unique, personal covenant, God gives each of us talent, and work to use our gifts. Some people have really big jobs, lifelong commitments, that only end with their death: Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., for example.

Some have medium-sized jobs, like three years in the peace corps. But most of us don’t have the opportunity or ability to be the Pope. Instead we have the smallest, simplest tasks of all, like a smile to brighten someone’s day.

The people with big and medium-sized jobs know they have a responsibility. A teacher is a teacher every day. And, if we aren’t mindful, those of us with small jobs might decide to not even bother. Who cares if we don’t smile?

“And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing….”-John 6:39.

In order for Jesus to not lose any one of us, he needs all of us to help. In every interaction, we reinforce hope or despair. Big, medium, or small: All jobs, like all people, are equal in God’s eyes. When we are born again, we recognize the possibilities and responsibilities of the so-called small jobs.

“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.”-Matthew 25:14.

Everyone serves God’s will, from Nebuchadnezzar (who enslaved the Jews) to Cyrus (who freed them). Simply stated, God’s will is whatever happens. Whatever we accomplish, whether we see it as good or bad, big or small, we serve each other.

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”-John 13:14.

We are all shepherds and sheep, the Lord’s servants and goods. Don’t misunderstand the labeling here. We tend to think of big as not being small; good is opposite evil. But God is Alpha and Omega. And so are we.

“But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.”-Mark 10:31.

We are all greater heroes, and cowards, than anyone can possibly imagine…let alone witness. The first equals the last. We are all God’s will, and we serve all that is, was, and will be.

We do this according to how we treat each other. Whether or not we use our talent in our work remains up to us. The Lord steps back (metaphorically) going “into a far country,” and allows us to handle each other in whatever ways we choose.

“And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.”-Matthew 25:15.

God never gives us more than we can handle. He pushes us to our limits, to show us what we can do, even when we think we can’t, and to show us our hearts. It’s no easy thing, to finish Jesus’ mission, to continue in the spirit of Moses, when we have but one talent to bring hope to billions.

“…for the LORD your God proveth [tests] you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”-Deuteronomy 13:3.

God knows our hearts, and tests us so that we know our hearts.

We can’t directly save billions, with our one little gift. Instead, we work with one smile at a time, a supportive gesture, giving love to the loveless, and hope to the hopeless.

Have faith in this good seed.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”-Proverbs 3:5.

We can’t even save one life. But that soul we touch, and aid in the reinforcing of hope, touches others; and those lives, others. Faith and despair grow by degrees, one at a time. Before we know it, the world is full of fear or faith. Everyone counts; everything we do adds up, always moving forward in whatever direction we nudge it.

All this begins when we are born again, realizing our small, but absolutely necessary place in the universe. Remember, God wants to give us the kingdom of heaven.

“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”-Luke 12:32.

He already has: Heaven is within us, each of us, all of us; it’s all around us. We just need new eyes, and new ears. The first step comes when we accept our talent and limitations.

“Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.”-Matthew 25:16.

A talent was not a coin, but a weight. It’s value depended on whether it was made of copper, silver, or gold. Silver was the most commonly used, and was worth approximately $600,000 (in our modern economy). It weighed from 75-130 pounds (34-58.9 kilograms).

So the first servant (as we’d see it today) had (5 x 600,000) 3 million dollars to trade with. His lord trusted him with that much of his money. The servant proved worthy of his master’s faith, doubling what he entrusted to him.

“And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.”-Matthew 25:17.

Interestingly enough, our current usage of the word “talent” comes from this parable: meaning gift or skill. When we have money, it’s easy to make more. We still have to work for it, but we have something obvious and tangible to trade with others.

Whether it’s art, science, sports, or a heartfelt smile, if we exercise our talent, our ability grows. The more we use it, the more we can do with it. Practice makes perfect.

If we don’t use our talents, we lose them.

“…every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”–Matthew 3:10.

We keep what we use. If we stop forgiving, soon we’ll forget how to do it. Same goes for everything. We teach ourselves, commit ourselves to whatever we do regularly. This is one of the best reasons for mindfulness: the absence of which is mindlessness.

These first two servants increased their talents, doubled them, by using them. The wording fascinates me too. They “received” these talents from their lord; they “traded” them with other people; and, by trading them, “gained” as much as they shared.

“…freely ye have received, freely give.”-Matthew 10:8.

We reason, incorrectly, that if we give something to someone, even our love, compassion, and forgiveness, then we lose what we give away. But God gave these to us. We received them freely. Instead of hoarding our gifts, if we pass them on to others, who need them, the Lord blesses us for blessing others. Then we gain double, and lose nothing.

“But he that had received one [talent] went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.”-Matthew 25:18.

I interpret this servant as the parable’s main character. He is the “everyman”: an ordinary individual with whom the reader identifies. There’s only one Moses or Jesus. Most of us are on the sidelines, watching the game. We can’t tackle, pass, or run; we’re too clumsy to dribble; we couldn’t hit water if we fell out of a boat: mostly because we’re lazy and scared; we feel weak and unimportant.

We have one talent (which is still worth over half-a-million dollars), but we feel impotent and jealous, when comparing ourselves to the servant who has 3 million.

“And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”-Exodus 3:11.

Not everyone can be the drum major, the General, the Messiah. Not everyone can fight in armies, or serve as apostles. Some stay behind, by necessity or choice or fear. Maybe we have tried to do good, lending a hand here and there, but got stomped on, heedless of Jesus’ warning:

“…behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves.”-Luke 10:3.

With our love defeated, and fear triumphant, we became the lost sheep: the very ones Jesus came to save. That’s why this servant is our main character. That’s why Jesus loves us, and died for us.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”-John 3:16.

Don’t give up. It’s not too late. God needs and loves you, and wants you to be in the kingdom. You are a unique part of the universe. Only you can accomplish what your special talent inspires.

But the clock ticks ever onward.

“After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoned with them.”-Matthew 25:19.

Remember, before going “into a far country,” their lord “delivered unto them his goods.” He made no mention of what the servants should do with what he gave them. He left his wealth in their hands. But he gifted each “according to his several ability.”

So their lord gave them talent based on what they could do with it.

Jesus told us to watch and be ready; but how can we, when we don’t know what to prepare for, or how to make ourselves ready?

Ah, but see, if we prepare for what we know will come, then we’ve prepared, as much as possible, for what we don’t know will come. Right now, no matter what happens, we need to learn and work on love: compassion, mercy, forgiveness, tolerance, and thankfulness. These things help us right now, and prepare us for whatever comes.

“And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.”-Matthew 25:20.

This servant received love, shared it with others, and earned love in return. If we feel and share love, then we have spread the Word, not by insistent conversion, but by our works, and our example.

“His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”-Matthew 25:21.

This servant was good and faithful because he accepted the unspoken responsibility that came with his lord’s gift, which he loaned or entrusted to the servant for safe keeping. Our talent no more belongs to us than the air, or the planets.

The servant was faithful because he knew the talent belonged to his lord, from whom he received it. And he was good because he received love, shared it, and returned it to the source. When we are good and faithful, we are ready to be born again.

“He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. / His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.”-Matthew 25:22, 23.

You know that wonderful feeling when you’ve done something good? That is the joy of the Lord. Imagine a whole life, or just weeks or years of having those feelings stored, ready for perusal and judgment of yourself. We don’t need a literal catastrophe, or the seven vials filled with the seven final plagues. All we need is one night, lying awake in bed, regretting what we’ve done.

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”-Proverbs 11:17.

Whatever sin means in the heavenly sense, the earthly definition reveals cruelty to others that ricochets back on the sinner. This wakes us in the middle of the night, judges and condemns us when our own personal Judgment Day, our guilt, turns the moon into blood.

So it goes, when we refuse to give to others what God gave to us.

“Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed.”-Matthew 25:24.

What can we say, on Judgment Day, when we failed and know it? The servant tried to deflect the blame onto his lord, insulting his employer. Had the servant claimed ignorance (at least), or repented (at most), he might have escaped his lord’s wrath.

The servants received no instructions on what to do with these talents. Since this last servant didn’t know how to use his gift, and if he was willing to try again, and do it right, maybe…just maybe….

“And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands….”-Revelation 9:20.

But he was too prideful, trying to stand tall in the midst of the storm. Why can’t we admit when we’re wrong? It’s natural to make mistakes, if we don’t know the rules. But we act like we’re always right.

It’s not my fault; it’s yours!

“And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.”-Matthew 25:25.

Here we see the true root of pride: fear. The strong know how weak they are; the courageous know their fear. But we who fake strength and courage, so others (who also fake these noble traits) accept us as one of their own, do so out of fear.

We hide our glorious gift, bury it, as if it were dead and did not exist. People suffer when we don’t give them our love and compassion; we suffer by not sharing it. No one gains anything, when we bury our heads and hearts.

When we ignore a part of the body, the whole body suffers. We are all a part of the body of the universe.

God knows who we are, and whether or not we’re ready to be born again. Judgment Day does not condemn us, but rather tests us, so we learn what we lack.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”-John 3:17.

We cannot learn unless we’re ready. God tests us so that we know ourselves: how small and large, insignificant and important we are.

Jonah tried to run, because he wasn’t ready to use his talent to help others. But the storms came, and the sea raged; the sailors cast him off the ship, and he lived in the belly of the great fish, until he accepted who he was, and what he needed to do.

“The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. // When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”-Jonah 2:5, 7.

I think we must enjoy getting lost, so that we feel the rapture of being found. That’s why the Lord is my shepherd: I am the most wayward of sheep. Like our “everyman” servant, and Jonah, I run, sometimes stopping for a moment, to do something helpful and loving, then go right back to running. More great fish have swallowed and vomited me out, than I can count.

Sometimes, when I want to help others, the task and responsibility overwhelms me. The adversary inside my heart tells me, You’re weak and stupid, and can do no good, only harm; walk away. Sometimes I stand firm; other times, I agree with this judgment of my worth.

That’s when the Lord smites me, like a dog owner, who lightly smacks their beloved pet on the nose for making a mess on the carpet.

“His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed.”-Matthew 25:26.

In this parable, Jesus not only defines what is good, and what is wicked, but shows us our relationship with God, and the Lord’s almighty will.

We are good when we receive God’s gift, and acknowledge it by sharing it with others, especially those who need love. We are wicked when we are too lazy, prideful, and scared: when we surrender to the adversary within, our own personal Satan.

“Remove far from me falsehood and lies; Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with mine allotted bread.”-Proverbs 30:8.

(Slight departure from the norm: I took that quote from the Jewish Holy Scriptures, because I liked the wording.)

We each have our allotted bread, our specific talent, which is a part of our unique covenant. You have what God gave you, and I have something different. Separately, we’re incomplete, wicked; together, we complete God’s will, which is good.

The servant’s insult (“…I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed.”) was not a lie! His lord verified it. If God neither sows, nor straws, who does?

We do. God reaps and gathers what we sow and straw.

Jesus never left Palestine, but told his disciples that his gospel will be taught in the entire world. How? Through us and our works: He gave us the gospel, and left it up to us, as to what we’d do with it. God gave Moses the Law, and Moses passed it on to the Israelites, who gave it to us.

What will we do with this good news? What will you do with it?

“Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money [talent] to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.”-Matthew 25:27.

In Jesus’ time, usury was lending money with high rates of interest, an illegal activity in Israel, but practiced, nevertheless. In this second verse, from the lord to his wicked and slothful servant, I’m reminded of the money changers in the temple.

Everyone had to exchange Roman currency, or any other foreign coins, for local coinage, in order to donate it to the temple. The money changers charged exorbitant fees, knowing the pilgrims couldn’t exchange their money anywhere else. Jesus called them “a den of thieves.”

But at least, with this illegal activity, the lazy servant could have traded his lord’s gift with others. Anything is preferable to nothing: love or hate, but don’t ignore; do or don’t do. Decide, commit to one way or the other.

“So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.”-Revelation 3:16.

We must accept who we are, to grow. Don’t second-guess; have faith in the good seed.

“…No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”-Luke 9:62.

Even when someone isn’t ready to be born again, we still need to plant the seed. If we don’t sow, what does God have to reap? They might not accept your love and compassion, but reject you, perhaps vehemently so.

“They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”-John 16:2.

A person doesn’t know love, unless we share it with them. If we share nothing, but ignore their pain (for fear of them causing us pain), then, in the absence of love, they know only hate…and so do we.

We don’t need to actively hate, just not actively love, for hate to result. Without the seed, the field lies barren. This is the difference between faith and fear, just and unjust, good and wicked.

“He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.”-Luke 16:10.

The servants who used their talents for love were faithful with their work. God rewards a job well done with more glorious work to do.

If we are without faith, then we are fearful; and when we are fearful, we don’t love, only hate. And if we don’t share love, then we reject God’s gift: our talent. And we show ourselves that we aren’t ready for more difficult work, which comes with being born again.

“Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.”-Matthew 25:28.

If we don’t use our talents, we lose our abilities. No one exists as an island. Run and hide all you want, but someday, you will need someone’s love and compassion. We need each other from birth until death. Our singular talent is insufficient, without sharing it with others.

When we do share love, that is, our interpretation of it, from our personal covenant, and according to our “several ability”: We save everyone, especially ourselves. The only true selfishness is altruism.

Booker T. Washington wrote, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”

“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.”-Matthew 25:29.

As an isolated quote, I know that might sound unfair, especially if we’re the one from whom the Lord takes away something.

But look at it this way:

“For unto every one that hath [love and talent] shall be given [or feel greater love and talent], and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not [or doesn’t share love] shall be taken away even that which he hath.”

We know what we did or didn’t do; what we felt, and didn’t express; what God gave us, which we refused to share. So is God unfair, or are we?

“Yet ye say, The way of the Lord is not equal. Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal? are not your ways unequal?”-Ezekiel 18:25.

God can take away, as well as give. Our talent is our compassion, specifically, the ways in which we feel and share it. When I care for others, especially the loveless and hopeless, I accept myself; when I don’t care, I judge and reject myself.

We can blame this on God. Since the Lord is everything, we’d be somewhat correct in doing so. But God doesn’t straw or sow, we do. The fault is ours; the judgment, on us.

“And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”-Matthew 25:30.

Like Simon-Peter, we are all “fishers of men.” Peter was that way because Jesus was that way, and still is.

“…Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.”-Mark 1:17.

We throw back the little fish, so they’ll finish growing: That’s what Judgment Day is. Growth hurts. (Ask a teething child.) The revelation of what we haven’t done, in comparison to what we accomplished, can be very painful. It reveals to us what good we’ve done, for ourselves and others, and makes us condemn ourselves for what we haven’t done.

Without God, that is, without love, we weep in darkness. We gnash our teeth in the overwhelming anxiety of finishing Jesus’ work. We’re not alone though: Moses believed he couldn’t save Israel; Jonah believed he couldn’t save Nineveh; and Peter thought he was too sinful to spread the Word and love of God.

“When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”-Luke 5:8.

When the Egyptians pursued the Israelites, trapping them against the Red Sea, God told Moses what Moses then shared with the weeping, former slaves, what still holds true for all of us today.

“The LORD shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.”-Exodus 14:14.

Reinforcing hope and faith seems impossible to us little people, who hover on the edge of outer darkness, on the sidelines. But nothing is impossible to God. When we spread the Word by our example, and love one another, we are not alone.

“…I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”-Matthew 28:20.

Jesus is with us, so is Moses, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Booker T. Washington, and everyone everywhere who has ever loved the loveless, and given hope to the hopeless. In love, we are all one body, one universe.

And when we fail, and fall into darkness, do not surrender to your inner adversary. Someone will come along, and offer you support. God will not forsake you.

“…As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. / …be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.”-Joshua 1:5, 9.

The “outer darkness” is not the end, only the beginning. Even if we surrender to this inner hell, when the great fish swallows us, like Jonah, all we have to do is repent: Accept God’s love; it’s everywhere.

See with new eyes, and hear with new ears. I’ve learned that what I believed were curses, in my life, were great blessings: miracles. God saves us from ourselves, and, through us, saves everyone. Jesus promised to not lose one of us. We will all pass over into the Promised Land, even if we wander through the wilderness for 40 years.

We will find the kingdom of heaven, because it’s inside of us, all around us, in each other, in everything. We can’t miss it!

“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”-Luke 12:40.

Stay mindful. The opportunities to use our talent happen suddenly. Like making a left turn in heavy traffic, if we don’t use the precious few seconds, in which we notice someone in pain, then we lose the chance to share love, and stay stalled at the stoplight.

I can’t tell you what your talent is, or how to use it; your talent comes from your personal covenant with God, and all of life. Pray and meditate, commune and hold fellowship with all things. If you open your heart and mind, then God reveals your heart and mind, through the Word and love of Jesus.

The Lord bless and keep you.

Amen.

God is everything, everyone, everywhere. So, whatever we do, we are a part of the kingdom of heaven, and not apart from it.

Nebuchadnezzar enslaved the Jews, taking them into captivity for 70 years. Still, he was God’s servant.

“And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant….”-Jeremiah 27:6.

King Cyrus, who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity, was not just God’s servant, but his anointed king: the Greek word for which is “Christ.”

“Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden….”-Isaiah 45:1.

Jacob was God’s servant (Ez. 37:25), as well as Moses (Joshua 1:2), and David (2 Sam. 7:8). We all work for God. In the kingdom, no work or person ranks higher than any other. What we call good or evil, meaningful or meaningless, doesn’t matter, except to us and our need to judge.

God loves all of us, and needs everyone and everything.

Jesus emphasized this point with a parable about a vineyard. Unlike my other interpretations, this time I want to start with the moral, the conclusion, and then work our way from the beginning.

“So the last shall be first, and first last: for many be called, but few chosen.”-Matthew 20:16.

Jesus loves riddles. He wants us to pray and meditate on his wordplay. How can the last be first? What’s the difference between being called and chosen? Our answers determine our unique, personal covenant with God. There is no wrong answer. There are as many answers as there are people.

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”-2 Peter 1:20.

My interpretation requires the insertion of a few key words: “So the last shall be [equal to the] first, and first [equal to the] last: for many be called [to follow God’s will], but few [have] chosen [to follow it mindfully].”

Do we know, and accept, that whether or not we choose to follow God’s will, we already do?

Now we can backtrack, develop our understanding of equality, and dismiss our judgmental ideas of separating Alpha and Omega.

“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.”-Matthew 20:1.

The Bible writers left out one important detail, assuming, no doubt, that their readers recognized the time of year when extra workers were needed: the harvest. The rainy season followed the harvest. If extra laborers weren’t hired, the rain ruined the crop.

Last time, in the parable of the Wheat and Tares, we learned that the harvest symbolized Judgment Day, the humbling Day of the Lord, preceding rebirth, which is the kingdom of heaven.

“…in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares…to burn them: but gather [last] the wheat into my barn.”-Matthew 13:30.

Jesus told us the reapers symbolized the angels; and the harvest, the end of the world. But we reasoned, in the previous essay, that we judge ourselves; we choose to enter heaven, or remain without love. So we are the angels, in that parable; and, in this one, we are the laborers.

“And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.”-Matthew 20:2.

I love the King James version, because it usually gives literal translations of the original text. But sometimes it doesn’t. The standard payment for a day’s work, at this time, in Palestine, was a “denarius.” We lose nothing in the given translation, but it’s nice to know.

The laborers made a covenant with the householder. These workers hired themselves out on a daily basis. Without that payment, they and their families didn’t eat.

“And [the householder] went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace. / And said unto them: Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.”-Matthew 20:3, 4.

The first hour of the day was 6 am. Instead of the time of day, let us think of this as the ages of humanity, or the morning, afternoon, and evening of our lives. In the beginning, God made a covenant with Noah; later, with Abraham (Noah’s descendant), then with Abraham’s descendants (Isaac and Jacob); still later, with Moses, and finally with the Israelites as a whole.

The renewing of the covenant ended or, rather, transformed, with Jesus: the personification of the Promised Land, whose teaching and example of love allows for our own personal covenants. While the Israelites made a national agreement, for a set wage, Jesus gives the rest of us “whatsoever is right.”

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”-Revelation 20:12.

Here in the vineyard, God pays us according to our works, what we do, think, and say. The last equals the first: God is Alpha and Omega. It doesn’t matter how long we labor, or how highly our task ranks.

Still, we tend to think that way, defining as important the number of hours on our time sheet, and whether we’re a supervisor, or newly hired.

“…Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and the great ones exercise authority upon them. / But so shall it not be among you…. / …whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”-Mark 10:42-44.

We must guard against the assumption that God thinks as we do. The closest we get to understanding the Lord is when we know that God loves us all.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”-Isaiah 55:8.

The householder doesn’t promise a set wage for those hired in the third hour, or the others who come later. Only the first know what they’ll receive for their work. If the householder pays them, who’re recently hired, less than a denarius, they won’t be able to feed their families. Yet, they work anyway, not knowing what they’ll be paid.

They live on faith, and survive on grace.

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.”-Ephesians 2:8.

We can’t understand, and shouldn’t try to interpret an isolated passage from the Bible, like this one. If we did, we’d assume that we can do whatever we want; and God will forgive us. Whether or not that’s what Paul meant, we see the idea in a new light, when we are born again.

No matter how long we work for God, beginning in childhood or old age, we still accomplish the Word, and shine light in darkness. Even if we comfort only one person, feed one animal, water one plant, by grace the Lord rewards us for doing the work given to us.

“Again [the householder] went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.”-Matthew 20:5.

With the twelve-hour day half, and three quarters, done, the householder hires more workers. He calls as many as possible, to gather the harvest before the rain comes. He needs these last, just as much as the first.

This parable teaches the reality of equality. Since God is everything and everyone, no one is more (or less) a part of God than anyone else.

“…The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”-Luke 10:2.

The Bible reminds us of what we tend to forget. We overlook our natural tendencies for jealousy. We want to show strength, when we feel weak. We put ourselves above others, not by raising ourselves, but by lowering others.

We do this because others do it. We turn everything into a contest of wills and pride. But pride is a lie; humility is the truth.

As our example, Jesus showed us what it means to be humble.

“If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.”-John 13:14.

The harvesters are all equal, because we all do God’s will: whether a little or a lot, for years or minutes, hundreds of times or once.

“And about the eleventh hour [the householder] went out, and found others standing idle, and said unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?”-Matthew 20:16.

Even in the 11th hour, God needs all of us to finish the work in time. Is dinner any less important because it’s not breakfast? Is that good friend we meet, when we’re elderly, any less loved because we weren’t childhood friends?

Everything has a time, place, and purpose; each of us accomplishes what no one else can do. This uniqueness equalizes everything. We fill in the gaps, and do the work, that no one else can.

“[The laborers] say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.”-Matthew 20:27.

When we’re mindful of God’s will, and our participation in the planting, growth, and harvest of the world, we’re always on the clock, always on the move, never slowing, or ceasing in our work, spreading the Word with our example: go, go, go!

But when we aren’t mindful, and, therefore, in denial of our mortality, and frail limitations, then we ignore the ticking of our time clock.

There is a day, hour, minute, and place with my name on it. When my shift is over, then I will work no more, forever.

We must love every moment, every one, and every thing: That’s what the Bible means when it tells us to love God. If we waste any time, standing idle, by not loving whatever work the Lord gives us, then we risk not eating at the end of the day. Without love’s nourishment, not only will we die, but we’ll take others with us.

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”-John 17:4.

At the end of our shift, our only “day” on this world, how soothing it would be, to know that we finished our task, our reason for being here in the first place. Maybe we never knew what work we needed to do, what, precisely, God had in mind for us. But God knows.

Even though I don’t know how I fit into the boss’ grand plan, when born again, I answer the call; I choose to love whatever and whomever finds their way into my life.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”-John 13:35.

And so, in the words of my favorite song: “My heart will lie peaceful and calm, when I’m laid to my rest.”

No matter what we do, or know, whether we stand idle, or keep moving, the end of the work day comes. The harvesters gather the last of the wheat and tares. The vines collapse beneath the torrential rain. The Lamb breaks the seventh seal, and opens the Book of Life.

“So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.”-Matthew 20:8.

Pay day! Judgment day; the Day of the Lord; the end of days: Everything we did and worked for comes down to this. We can’t add a cubit to our stature, or an hour to our time card. What we did is what we have to show for ourselves. What we did is who we are.

What will you have to show, when you lie awake in bed, or when your loved one passes away? Will you be left with the eternal lake of fire of your regret, wailing and gnashing your teeth? Or will you know that you did your best? There can be no doubt, as that’s pointless. What you did, and who you are is, simply, what you did, and who you are.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.”-John 15:1.

If we love everyone, all during our work day, and repent when we stumble and stand idle, then we’ve harvested the love we learned from the vine, we accomplished the gardener’s job (which is God’s will), and there can be no doubt, fear, or regret.

The fun (and often confusing) part of Bible interpretation is that God is all characters, and so are we. God is the householder, lord of the vineyard, the steward, and laborers, the vineyard as a whole, and the singular vine.

God is everything, and more. Infinity is always larger than the biggest number.

“That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.”-Isaiah 45:6.

And since God made us, and directs our path, we are of God.

“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”-Jeremiah 1:5.

We judge and reward ourselves, based on what we choose to do. We harvest what we plant, reap what we sow; and if we sow the wind, we reap the whirlwind.

No matter how much we lie to ourselves, we cannot escape the truth in our hearts. We know what’s written in the book of our lives: We write it, seal it, and open it. We are Judgment Day! Likewise, so is God.

God is the truth in our hearts, the works that we do, the lake of fire, and eternal peace of mind.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”-Isaiah 45:7.

We are God’s prophets, the Word, the light of Jesus that shows the way; and we create evil. We are God’s work.

So when we, the stewards, and Jesus (who is also the steward), call ourselves, as he calls us, we reward ourselves, as God pays us, “whatsoever is right.”

“Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?”-John 10:34.

We are gods, when we do God’s work. Or, perhaps, it is more accurate to say it this way: We are God’s. We are the least important, because ours is one small life among countless billions, and the most important, because we are unique: You are the only you there ever was, or will be.

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. / I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”-Revelation 22:12, 13.

So the lord of the vineyard tells his steward to give “whatsoever is right” to the workers; the steward pays the last, first; and the first, last.

“And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny [a denarius]. / But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more, and they likewise received every man a penny.”-Matthew 20:9, 10.

How hard it is for us to be satisfied. Even if we’re rich, and have everything we want, it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for us to be born again, and enter the kingdom of truth, the love of God.

“Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.”-Proverbs 27:20.

Our jealous eye sees that others have more, or worse yet, others have what we have, when they didn’t work as much as we did.

Remember the Prodigal Son’s older brother?

“And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: / But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”-Luke 15:29, 30.

The older brother was, of course, the first born. He always obeyed his father, and lived a good life because of this.

God made a covenant with the Israelites. The Lord called them his first-born son.

“…Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.”-Exodus 4:22.

To them and their beliefs, everyone else was a Gentile, who would all be destroyed in the Day of the Lord. The Israelites came first; likewise, the older brother, and the laborers who worked all day.

We all see ourselves as privileged, above the common rabble, while we also complain that we don’t get enough, and deserve more. How can we be better than everyone, but evidently lower too, since they have the same, or more, as we do?

Am I a prince, or am I a pauper?

“And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house. / Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”-Matthew 20:11, 12.

For the rest of my life, when I see the word murmur, I will think of the Israelites and Moses. Right after they complained to him that there was no food, in the wilderness, and God gave them manna, then they murmured about not having any water.

“…and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst? / And Moses cried unto the LORD, saying, What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me.”-Exodus 17:3, 4.

Gratitude, friends and neighbors: the older brother lacked it; the first-born Israelites refused to learn it; and the first-hired laborers didn’t express it either. The father gave the older brother a good life, in exchange for his loyalty; God saved the Israelites from slavery; and the lord of the vineyard paid his workers what he had promised, enabling them to feed themselves and their families.

“…to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”-Luke 7:47.

It is God’s will that I be a pauper, so that I know love when repentance makes me a prince. I must go through the wilderness, so that I love the Promised Land. God tests our hearts with affliction, and forgives our weakness, because, no matter how many fiery flying serpents devour us (poor Israelites, see Numbers 21:6), or how many blessings we refuse and crucify, out of pride and ignorance, we endure through forgiveness and love.

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”-Revelation 2:10.

Therefore, with all due respect to Mark Twain, I am the Prince and the Pauper: just not all at once. Taken in its entirety, as seen in the book of my life, I have been first and last, the beginning and the end. Wretched as I am, when I suffer tribulation, and endure by loving God’s work, the King of kings crowns me with amazing grace.

“But [the householder] answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?”-Matthew 20:13.

The standard Christian covenant calls us to action, and, in return, promises to give us our daily bread, forgives us when we forgive others, and strengthens our endurance. We agree to this arrangement, because it saves us from the Egyptian whip, and starvation in the wilderness. This love, which results from our love, feeds us, our families, and everyone else.

Where there is nothing, and we are without hope, God fills our granaries, so that we survive the famine. Though we have no water, now our cup runneth over.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”-Matthew 6:33.

We are born again when we put God first; and since God is everyone and everything, the blessings of the kingdom of heaven equalizes everyone.

We have no true ranks of importance, only equality. We achieve this equal footing by humbling ourselves, and showing gratitude, when, in the wilderness, God’s love nourishes us.

“Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee. / Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?”-Matthew 20:14, 15.

God calls all of us to action. We all live and work in the vineyard. But, unless we choose God, unless we live with love and gratitude as our guides, then we see only through the evil veil in our hearts. We project onto others, what we know and feel exists within us.

This happens even without our being aware of it. We sin because we aren’t mindful.

“When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.”-Job 30:26.

We judge others by what we see, and refuse to acknowledge, in ourselves. If we are light, then we see light; if we are darkness, then we see darkness.

Those first-hired laborers saw the householder as dealing unjustly with them, because they were greedy, jealous, judgmental, and unjust. If we aren’t mindful, then we fall back into our mindless ways. Being born again gives us new eyes, if we choose to accept gratefully “whatsoever is right.”

“The light of the body is the eye…. / But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness….”-Matthew 6:22, 23.

If we lie to ourselves, by insisting that we are better or worse than everyone else, or that we don’t have to be grateful, because we pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps, then everything we see is a lie. Truth begets truth, and lies beget lies.

Our hearts know the truth. So when we lie, we conquer and confuse ourselves.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”-Isaiah 5:20.

We turn everything around, and blind ourselves, losing our way to the very happiness that we lied for in the first place. All that ends on Judgment Day, when the Lamb within opens the book of our lives, and sees truthfully what we sealed.

At the end of the harvest, when the rains come, we rest within the ark, or gnash our teeth, as our flood of lies and confusion covers our heads. But, in the end, there is no difference between these two: They are both God’s will, and God’s love.

We humble ourselves, when we love everyone, making their needs equal to ours, loving them as we would have them love us. Humility is the truth. So when we bring judgment upon ourselves, in a moment of honesty, we open our hearts.

If we refuse to bow our knees, God drives us to our knees. If we denounce humility, our own pride drowns us, and humbles us.

“For the day of the LORD is near….as thou hast done, it shall be done unto thee: thy reward shall return upon thine own head.”-Obadiah 1:15.

At the end of that day, we begin to realize the truth, and love fills our eyes with light, so that we finally see the way: The last equals the first, and the first equals the last. We answer the call when we choose to, when Alpha and Omega knows we’re ready to enter the Promised Land, and be born again.

And on that day, we cry out the single Greek word, as Jesus did on the cross, with a mighty shout: Tetelestai! (te-TEL-es-ti.)

It is finished!

Our works (what we think, do, and say) nourish us or poison us. And since we share our works, our daily bread, we nourish or poison others. We are born again, and enter the kingdom of heaven, when we accept responsibility for this disparity, and acknowledge the cause of it: doubt.

If we doubt for reasons of growth, love, compassion, and positive change, then it nourishes us. If we doubt because of cynicism, fear, or hatred (which is the absence of love), then it poisons us.

Doubt influences us to spring forward, or fall back. As always, we must be mindful, not only of what we’re doing, but our reasons for doing it.

“…The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.”-Matthew 13:24.

Jesus loved parables about farming and fishing, because the people listening to him farmed and fished. We learn best by imagining his lessons in terms of how we live.

For me, the universal poison (the devil) is the dark side of doubt.

This is one of those few parables that Jesus interpreted for us. Unlike last time, let us look at both parable and interpretation together.

“…He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.”-Matthew 13:37.

Jesus most always referred to himself in the 3rd person, as the “Son of man.” There are many reasons for this, and we will get to it in a later essay. For now, note that he didn’t say I, and that Son of man refers to the Hebrew word Messiah (which means “anointed one”), the Greek word for which is Christ.

Since we aren’t ready to declare what Jesus meant by Son of man, we must limit what we glean from these opening lines.

So far we have two objects: The Son of man and the good seed.

“But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.”-Matthew 13:25.

Tares are a kind of weed, or ryegrass, that looks like wheat in its early stages. The farmer can’t distinguish them, until the tares grow ears. Their seeds are poisonous. (Another interesting note, the Romans outlawed sowing tares in an enemy’s field.)

“The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.”-Matthew 13:38.

The Son of man plants the seeds that are the children of the kingdom of heaven, people who have been born again, through love for all.

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”-John 15:9.

As God loves Jesus, just so does Jesus love us, and, by his example, in that same way, we should love each other: This is God’s will.

The “wicked one” plants poisonous seeds.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus specifies a unique quality to God’s children.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”-Matthew 5:9.

Jesus came so that we might have peace, not only with each other, but within ourselves. The people whose works bring this peace are the good seed, the children of the kingdom.

He also spoke specifically about the children of the wicked one, who do not bring peace.

“…It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!”-Luke 17:1

Life without tribulation is impossible because of the children of the wicked one.

A word of caution: Do not assume that we are talking about different people. As discussed last time, redemption proves that no one person is evil all the time, but always has capacity for good; and sin proves that no one is good all the time, either.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil….”-Mark 7:21.

Evil is not out there, independent of us; it comes from us: We make evil by doubting love. Yet, we are the children of God, not because of what’s out there, but because of our peacemaking, as we spread the love that God feels for Jesus, and Jesus expresses to us.

“.…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”-Luke 17:21.

At the crossroads of every decision, we choose to doubt, or to have faith in love.

“But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.”-Matthew 13:26.

This is the fruit, the results, of our selfish, antagonistic works. Through everything that we think, do, and say, we grow the wheat that nourishes us and others, or the tares that poison everyone’s faith in love.

Remember, the tares look just like the wheat, until they bear fruit. Consciously, we may not know, or acknowledge, that we thought or acted in a nourishing or poisonous way.

Whatever else it is, sin is psychological.

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”-Proverbs 11:17.

We act tough for others, even convincing ourselves that we don’t care.

“.…but God knoweth your hearts….”-Luke 16:15.

And when the tares spring up, when we poison our own flesh, even though we hide our hearts from everyone, including ourselves, God knows.

“.…for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.”-Ezekiel 8:12.

People have been saying that since the Jews’ Babylonian captivity, and we believe it today, even if only occasionally. But God is everywhere, ubiquitous in space and time-which means God is an immortal spirit.

“…and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”-John 4:24.

The truth is true, whether we admit it or not, believe it or not, deny it or not. Deep down, we know that God sees us, because we see ourselves; we know what we think, do, and say. We know the difference between nourishment and poison.

When we accept that we can’t lie to ourselves, without suffering mysterious ailments, turns of fortune, brought about by our own duplicity, and the poisoning of our own minds, then we are born again.

“So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? / He said unto them, An enemy hath done this….”–Matthew 13:27, 28.

At last we get to the fourth player in this drama.

“The enemy that sowed them is the devil….”-Matthew 13:39.

We’ve talked about the devil some, in past essays. “Satan” is the Greek and Hebrew word for “adversary” or “enemy.” The same word means the same thing in the two languages in which the Bible was originally written.

Let that sink in.

I don’t pretend to know the immortal goings-on of Heaven and Hell. I don’t even know the whole truth about our limited, mortal existence. Assume humility, not pride, and the truth (or what we can know of it) reveals itself.

Like the Son of man, whose meaning we can’t entirely understand, Satan defies absolute qualification; and, as with the good seed, which, by definition, none of us can attain completely, the Tares are not individual people, but parts of us: Tares symbolize our weaknesses; the wheat, our strengths.

So whatever else the Son of man and Satan might be, Son of God and Fallen Angel, respectively, they stand for our faith in love and our doubting of love.

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”-John 8:44.

We lie when we doubt truth. Jesus is the truth: love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility. We murder all of these within ourselves and others, when we don’t live truthfully. Sin denies love; God is love; and God is everything: So when we don’t love, which is the unification of all that Jesus stands for, we sin.

“…Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”-Mark 7:9.

We want to do things our way. My pride assures me that I am in control of my life. What matters is that I increase my power, that I celebrate what I desire, and others can look out for themselves. The fact that love is a greater way, a life larger than my own, makes it my enemy, my adversary, my satan.

This is pride, and pride is a lie.

Lies and truth fight an eternal war within us.

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.”-Revelation 12:7.

Heaven is within us, Jesus said. And evil infects us not from without, but from within. Lying, being cruel to others, so that we get what we want, and, by necessity, deny others what they want, seems to be the easiest way. And it would be, except the Tares poison us, as we grow them.

“There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.”-Isaiah 48:22.

We ruin the very happiness we seek, falling into the trap we set for others, when we doubt that love saves us all. We think to look after our own interests, but poison our own lives. The only way to look our for ourselves is to love others.

This altruism is the only way to accomplish what we set out to do, by being selfish.

“.…The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? / But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.”–Matthew 13:28, 29.

Since we don’t know enough to accurately judge anyone or anything, we are unable to separate good from evil. If we try, we might remove what (in time) turns out to be good. This is the reason for humility, and allowing God’s will to be done.

My favorite example of this truth comes from the story of Joseph, owner of the coat of many colors, and one of the 12 patriarchs that became the 12 tribes of Israel.

Jealous of him, because Jacob gave Joseph the coat, and angry with him for his dream interpretations, that foretold their obedience and subordination to this younger brother, the other brothers stole his coat, ripped it up, threw Joseph into a pit, and conspired to sell him into slavery.

But when Joseph was a slave in Egypt, he was the only one who could interpret Pharaoh’s dream, without being told the details of the dream. And his interpretation warned that famine was coming, that Egypt should prepare by storing food. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of this distribution, making the Hebrew slave his second in command.

So, when the famine hit Jacob, and Joseph’s brothers, and they heard that Pharaoh had food, they went to Egypt and found Joseph. Now, he could have thrown his hateful brothers into prison, or had them killed, or denied them food. What they did to him was exceedingly wicked.

Here is what Joseph said to them:

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”-Genesis 50:20.

He welcomed them (after messing with their heads a little), gave them food, and reunited with Jacob. He did this because, unlike his brothers, he had the faith to not judge what is good, and what is evil. God meant for their wicked acts to save many people.

“…did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?”-Luke 11:40.

We just don’t know what will come. Being totally ignorant, stumbling in the darkness of lust and selfish desires, by trying to put right what we think is wrong, we might make wrong what would have later turned out to be right.

Faith in love means having the patience to let God’s will be done. This faith, as we’ve said, is the Son of man, and the good seeds result from his (and our) love. Doubt is “the wicked one,” and the tares result from his lies, which are needed to support our doubt.

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them together in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”-Matthew 13:30.

Good and evil exist together. God made everything and exists as everything. Good comes from evil; and evil, from good. I think Solomon said it best:

“The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”-Proverbs 16:4.

Jesus gave us two new terms here: harvest and reapers.

We are not the reapers, who separate good from evil. Since both of these exist within us, and God made both, and God is both, then we cannot divide what God put together, what is within us: our souls, our kingdom. We cannot divide God.

“And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”-Mark 3:34.

If we rid ourselves of all doubt, then we lose the good, as well as the bad. There is worthwhile doubt, and worthless doubt: fruitful and fruitless, nourishment and poison.

While we wait for God’s will to be done, we must also act as angels: the Greek word for “messenger.” As Jesus loves us, we must love others. To do nothing means to love no one, which is the same as hate.

The 12 apostles didn’t just listen to Jesus, nodding their heads in listless acquiescence. Jesus sent them out to preach, and act, and share love.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”-Matthew 10:16.

This is really hard and frightening. We wait for God’s will, and yet we act according to Jesus’ teachings; we tell no one, and yet we spread the word. We cannot do this, unless we are mindful of God, thinking always of what we learned from Jesus: faith, patience, love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion.

To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the hardest part of obeying God is that we must disobey ourselves. So we make our will to become God’s will. We accomplish this by following what we learn from Jesus. In that way, the impossible becomes possible, the finite becomes infinite, and the one becomes all.

“Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”-Malachi 3:18.

In his messianic prophecy, Malachi points us to beginning of the conclusion. We serve God when we have faith in love, which is the good seed, which Jesus plants, which grows into the wheat that we use to bake our bread, which we feed to others.

We do not serve God when we doubt love, which is the poisonous seed, which our adversarial nature plants, which grows into the tares that ruin our bread, which we feed to others, and, thereby, ruin them.

Now, let us look at the two new terms.

“…the harvest is the end of the world; and the angels are the reapers.”-Matthew 13:39.

So, the good and bad seed grow together, until the end of the world, at which time the angels separate them. The “end of the world” is also our third unknowable term.

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”-Mark 13:32.

By his own admission, even Jesus doesn’t know the entirety of what the Jews called “the day of the Lord.”

“The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.”-Zephaniah 1:14.

Peter addressed one of the reasons for why these three terms (Son of man, Satan, and the end of the world) are unknowable.

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”-2 Peter 1:20.

So don’t believe anyone who tells you that they know what prophecy means. Only God knows.

The Lakota Indians called God (what is sacred, divine, the Great Spirit) “Wakan Tanka.” This translates into English as “the Great Mystery.” Some things are unknowable to us. We study and interpret them, not to know, but to learn humility while pondering the infinite.

This is why I tend to interpret by transposing these immortal goings-on into understandable, mortal ideas. Much is lost by doing it that way. But, by speaking in earthly terms, we at least have a chance of being right; we cover our bases.

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”-John 3:12.

That said, I see “the end of the world” as necessarily preceding the newly recreated world, what the Revelation called “New Jerusalem.” The Old passes away, to make room for the New; one decreases, so that the other increases. This creation uses the remains, the energy of what was destroyed. And so, God destroys the Old to make the New.

This describes being born again. The end of the world is the end of our old life. New Jerusalem is our new life. Things get worse and worse, the plagues mount, the moon turns to blood, the trumpets sound. To humble ourselves, to bend our knees to God, we must be driven to our knees.

Therefore, Judgment Day, the day of the Lord, is when we fail our most important test one too many times. Everything falls apart; the center cannot hold. So we learn that we are not islands unto ourselves, but a part of God, an ingredient of the universe: necessary, but no smaller or larger than anything else.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”-John 14:20.

We sift through the good and bad, when God tests us, when we admit failure, and learn the truth, by which we are reborn.

Are we then the angels?

Not at first. And not entirely, even when we are at our best. But, yes, in this parable, we sit in judgment on ourselves: We are angels, and we are not angels. Recall this curious statement, one of many for which the Jews wanted to stone Jesus.

“I and my Father are one.”-John 10:30.

To explain this to his would-be murderers, who took him literally, and therefore charged him with blasphemy, Jesus referred to one of the Psalms of David.

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”-Psalm 82:6.

What he tried to tell them was that they were gods, angels (God’s messengers) when they served God. When we remove the plank from our eye, we can see clearly to remove the mote from our brother’s eye. The humility and honesty required to remove our plank, and their mote, comes from the truth of love.

“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of the world. / The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.”-Matthew 13:40, 41.

When we doubt love, we do iniquity (which is wicked, immoral behavior). This sparks the chain reaction that leads to the end of the world.

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”-Matthew 24:12.

When we share love, and don’t receive love in return, our hearts grow cold; we stop sharing love, out of self-preservation. But if we don’t share love, then we hate, and poison ourselves, which poisons others, making their hearts grow cold. And so on.

Remember, when we share love, we are sheep among wolves: harmless, in that we don’t return their hate, and wise, in that we know they will hate us.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”-John 15:18.

Therefore, we must mindfully start God’s chain reaction, by loving those who hate us, by blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who use and persecute us. This is God’s will, and, by following it, we are God’s children, angels of love.

To be able to do this impossible thing, we must be humbled to the point of self-obliteration, and allow our will to become God’s will, our life to become God’s life, our hate to become the love that God has for Jesus, and Jesus has for us.

When this happens, we throw our Tares into the furnace. When we encounter iniquity, which we know will be there, so it’s not a surprise, our hearts radiate warmth, growing warmer all the time. It is with this flame that we burn the Tares.

“And [the angels] shall cast [iniquity] into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”-Matthew 13:42.

As stated in previous essays, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, whatever else it may be, refers to the fear and anxiety we feel on Judgment Day. It is no small thing to lose our lives, even if it means saving our lives.

We leap with faith, and fall in doubt.

With faith, Peter walked on water. When he doubted, he sank. But, even then, he called to Jesus, he returned to faith, and, as Jesus said to everyone he miraculously healed:

“.…thy faith hath saved thee.”–Luke 18:42.

When Jesus knew he had to sacrifice his life on the cross, even though it meant saving all of us, he prayed in Gethsemane:

“…My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death…./ …O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”-Matthew 26:38, 39.

We want to save our lives, but we lose our lives, if we seek to save ourselves. This goes against our every instinct. We doubt even unto death. But then, we return to faith, and if we truly want to save our lives, we surrender to God’s will.

We must know everything to save our lives, which is impossible. Only everything knows everything. So we turn our will over to God, and act in the name of love, and then…a miracle!

“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”-Matthew 13:43.

This is what becomes of the conflict between the wheat and tares. The seemingly eternal war is really a passing thing, a vapor, a shadow. If we grasp the vapor, we come up empty handed. All we really have to hold onto is each other.

This is the truth. Everything else we tell ourselves is a lie. So if we hate, dismiss, ignore, poison our only hope, our single refuge, then we doubt the Son of man, grow from the wicked one’s ruinous seed, and destroy not only ourselves, but each other: a chain reaction that brings about the end of the world.

But we must do this. We will end the world. New stars are created with the remains of dead stars. The only remaining question is this: Will we learn before it’s too late?

“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”-Micah 6:8.

While many of us are stubborn and slow, some do learn. They do justly, show mercy, walk humbly regardless of how others treat them. They are the wise, harmless sheep, the good seed, God’s children, peacemakers among wolves: With love, they nourish everyone.

In the uproar and hopelessness of the great and terrible day of the Lord, they comfort the lost sheep, teach love by example, and not by ultimatum. They show us how “the end” evanesces like a shadow, that hate is but a prelude to love. When the sun goes dark, and the stars fall, and the moon turns to blood, they stand firmly in love.