Matthew 13:47-49 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace.
I have difficulty with delayed gratification. I am not good at sacrificing now so I can receive a reward later. Restaurants with buffets appeal to me because I can walk in and eat right now. I am not inclined to think about consequences tomorrow. It is my nature to want what I want right now.
So, Jesus perspective here is a little alien to me. In this parable, Jesus insisted that what we do in this life matters in the next. As Christians, we believe that though our flesh will decay and come to the grave, our spirit will live on for eternity. In this view, our spirit life is ultimately our much greater reality. In the scheme of eternity, our time on Earth is a very brief event.
This is not a natural perspective for me. It is the nature of my flesh to focus on me. My nature insists that this is all there is so I might as well do what feels good now. If I want to eat 12 donuts, why should I not? It is what I want. If I want to indulge my appetite for pleasure, I should do so as this is what feels good now.
This is the instinct of my flesh nature, to do whatever I want, whenever I want. I naturally seek my own pleasure and comfort and I naturally seek it in the quickest manner possible. Tomorrow’s consequences are not my first concern.
You may not identify with seeking instant gratification in food, sex or drugs, but most of us have this problem, just in different manifestations. Some will indulge in alcohol while others will turn to anger, pride, anxiety or affirmation from others. Whatever it is, most of us are terminally me/now-focused. It is not natural for us to neglect our impulses today for gain tomorrow.
This is not to say we do not do it. It is possible. It just takes effort. We all know the sound of the 6:00 alarm. Though it is not what we naturally desire, we get out of bed because we need to go to work if we want to pay next month’s mortgage. We do have the capacity to understand the necessity of delayed gratification.
It is to this capacity that Jesus spoke. He said that at the end of the age there will be a day of reckoning when what we did in this life will actually matter. It may not be natural for me to think this way, but Jesus insisted that the consequences of my actions today will reverberate for eternity.