Do you know what you will be judged for?
Judgment Day is coming, but do you know what you will be judged for? Like a final exam at the end of a semester, wouldn’t it be better to know what you are going to be tested on rather than flying blind into that fateful day? Four different times Jesus spoke about a coming Judgment Day, when the living and the dead must stand before Him and give an account of their lives. At the end of that Day, one thing above all will be judged: what we did with Jesus, the Son of God. Did we accept Him, believe in Him and humbly walk under His authority? Or did we reject Him, ignore Him and live as if He never existed?
But that is not all that we will be judged for on Judgment Day. The Bible says that we will have to give an account for our entire lives. And this is where many well-meaning Christians wade into confusion, projecting our own priorities onto God, assuming that what is important to us is important to God. Just as dangerous, we assume that what is important to our church must be important to God. Because Judgment Day is so vital to Christians, the Bible is not silent on what we will and what we will not be judged for on that day. Judgment Day is the ultimate final exam and God has already told us what to prepare for. Here are four surprising things that you will and will not be judged for on Judgment Day.
You will not be judged for your intentions.
This is a trap that too many Christians fall into. We do not obey God like we know we should, but we feel like if we at least want to obey God, if we intend to, that this somehow counts. Jesus told a story about this in Matthew 21:
What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?
‘The first,’ they answered (Matthew 21:28-31).
We can verbally tell God everything He wants to hear. We can agree with everything the Bible says. We can intend to live out as much of the Christian life as there is to live. But on Judgment Day, we will not be judged on our intentions, but on our actions.
You will not be judged for how much you attended church.
This one is tricky because this is the baseline expectation for most churches today. At the end of the day, success for most churches is getting you to come and sit in a pew for an hour a week. Singing along, giving an offering or even volunteering is extra credit. If you just show up that is enough, or at least that is the expectation.
But that mistakes the very definition of church. When Jesus told Peter, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18), the Greek word ‘church’ literally means ‘assembly’ or ‘gathering.’ Only later in church history would a Germanic word meaning ‘house of the Lord’ be translated into that verse. When Jesus talks about the church, He never means the building but the people. The church has never been the building. Church has never been something you attend in a specific building at a specific time. Church has always been the followers of Jesus, living out His commands in their daily lives. You will not be judged for how many services you attend but you will be judged for how you lived out His commands in your everyday world.
You will be judged for how you developed your potential.
When the disciples ask Jesus about the end times and the coming judgment, Jesus proceeds to tell them two stories, two parables. The first is known as the Parable of the Talents or the Parable of the Bags of Gold (Matthew 25:14-30). In this story a master goes away on a long journey and gives three of his servants three different sums of money. When the master comes back (alluding to Judgment Day) he holds his servants accountable for what they did with what was given to them. The first two servants were given differing amounts but both doubled what was given them. The second servant was not condemned because he did not earn as much profit as the first servant, he was commended because he did the best with what was given to him. The third servant was condemned not for squandering his money, but for failing to leverage it and invest it.
Too often Christians sit around moping because they don’t have this gift or this talent. You won’t be judged for someone else’s potential. Whether you have been given five talents, two talents or one talent, develop the potential that God has placed in your life. That is what you will be judged for on Judgment Day.
You will be judged for how you cared for others.
The second story (or parable) that Jesus tells His disciples about Judgment Day is known as the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46). In this parable the king comes and sits in judgment on his people. As he separates his people as one would separate the sheep from the goats, his criteria is what’s surprising:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’ (Matthew 25:34-36).
His people are surprised at this criteria, and the king replies ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’ (Matthew 25:40). This judgment is surprising is because it goes against how the average Christian is conditioned today. We know the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37). What we tend to do is separate that from our responsibility to love others. We think that if we focus all our attention on God, He will be pleased. Getting around to loving others is optional. But when Jesus gave us the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37-38, He also added that just as important is ‘loving your neighbor as yourself’. This speaks to the deeper truth that the best way to love God is to love others. On Judgment Day, this is what we will be held to account for.
The one thing Jesus repeated again and again is that Judgment Day is coming at a time when we least expect. It is a final exam, but it will appear like a pop quiz, without warning. That is why Jesus went to such lengths to pass onto his disciples and us how to pass this great final exam. Don’t just intend to obey God, obey Him. Don’t just attend church, be the church. Don’t complain about someone else’s potential, develop the potential given to you. And love God by loving His children. It is up to us to do our part and ace the test.