"Business and Building," Obedience To Our Father(s), And Matthew 25
A specific portion of the Muslim prayer - known as Tashahhud - can be translated in Engish as, "All good, whether rendered by speech, by prayer, by worship, or by deeds, is all for Allah." I have been thinking this over recently in terms of all of the possible ways that any of us as individuals can do good.
Before I leave this earth, I intend to do as much good as I possibly can, primarily for others. Not only because I love acts of kindness and righteousness for their own sake, as well as the human being(s) to whom they are directed; but also because I do believe that I (in person, through my family or down the line of my descendants) will share in the consequences of any good act I assist in, and because the scriptures say certain acts of good, actually cover a multitude of sins (smile). See James 5:20.
A standard for good that I have accepted for my life comes from the Bible. It can be found in Matthew 25. I share it with others, even those who are not Christians or Bible readers, and invariably - whether Christian, Marxist, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic, Deeist, or Jew or Hebrew, everyone seems to get the point about Jesus' parable of "The Sheep and The Goats," particularly as it relates to the poor and public service.
Through the paradigm of Matthew 25, in particular, I have grown to see the hypocrisy among those of us who claim a teaching, school of thought, or religion who can eloquently quote its tenents but cannot be found doing the works that our belief and faith are supposed to generate.
In that sense, many Bible and Torah-toting and Qur'an-quoting individuals may find themselves in a horrible position one day soon, when called to account for not just what they knew, or even understood, but rather how they acted upon it. It reminds me of the Parable of Jesus regarding the two sons, described in Matthew 21, which reads in part, in verses 28 to 31:
"28"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.' 29" 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30"Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. 31"Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered.
Notice how the first son did the work or will of his father without a public proclamation of his belief or intention.
According to the standards of most in religion, would that make him a Disbeliever or a True Believer?
In referring to this parable, in 1998, I heard the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan say that he saw more Islam being practiced in Cuba than in supposedly Muslim countries around the world. Think that over carefully, not just in terms of socialism and Islam, but in terms of the relationship between your actual practice of whatever theory or belief system, or school of thought you claim or identify with.
It was also through the words of the Minister that I came to more deeply understand Matthew 25 and its application to activism and politics.
Matthew 25:31-46 (New International Version) reads:
31"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34"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.
35For 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,
36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'
41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'
46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
The Honorable Elijah Muhammad, partially out of his deep knowledge of zoology, powerfully interpreted the first portion of this passage of scripture over many years.
Here is how Minister Farrakhan referred (primarily) to the latter portion of Matthew 25 in an interview of him conducted by the late John F. Kennedy, Jr.for George magazine in 1996:
JFK: The question that I have always puzzled over is when every presidential election Rev. Jackson and others say, the Democratic Party shouldn’t take Blacks for granted. But why shouldn’t they? Why should mainstream politicians listen to Black leaders when Blacks vote in minimal proportion? They give little money to campaigns? Those are the normally accredited benchmarks of political power (that) do not come out of the Black community. Why should they listen?
MLF: And what does that say about our immaturity, in giving us the right to vote but not educating us to the responsibility that goes with that right and how to effect those in positions of power? What you are saying, Mr. Kennedy, in effect, is … you (political parties) are with us but you shouldn’t listen to us and pay attention to our legitimate cries because we don’t give money in sufficient numbers. That says that you cater to those who have learned the use of money and votes, and you care nothing for those who are poor and weak and ignorant.
Jesus talked about judgment and he talked about the separation of nations. And there was a standard that Jesus raised that was the basis for the separation of nations and people for the judgement of destruction and for the judgement of salvation. And it hinged on a question that a disciple asked Jesus. He said, "Master, when were you hungry and we fed you not? When were you naked and we clothed you not? When were you out of doors and we gave you not shelter? When were you sick and imprisoned and we ministered not unto you?" And Jesus answered unto them saying, "Inasmuch as you have not done this unto the least of these my brethren, you have not done it also unto me." And that, my dear sir, is the failing of the U.S. government.
From a March 31, 1968 speech, delivered just days before he was killed, here is how the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. referred to Matthew 25.
The speech is called "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution:
Yes, it will be a Poor People’s Campaign. This is the question facing America. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. America has not met its obligations and its responsibilities to the poor.
One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power.
It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, "That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me." That’s the question facing America today.
In preparation for "Business and Building" II, my mind and my heart have meditated over Matthew 25 and what we, as a community - at BlackElectorate.com - can do to respond positively to the standard of action and community which this important passage represents. My great prayer is that whether one believes in a religion, theology or a Supreme Being or not, that they can see two things in these verses: righteous and universal principles (including the law of cause and effect) that govern us all, and the suffering of our poor people all over the world.
In developing our Four Area Initiatives: Political Action, International Affairs, Business and Investment, and Community Development, I hope that we all might see how serving one another and coming together in unity on the basis of principle and agreement or consensus on the miserable condition of our people, in the right spirit, can empower us to become a tangible factor of power, capable of changing certain realities on the ground and in the air.
Whether as Liberals, Conservatives, Pan-Africanists, Nationalists, Progressives, Socialists, Objectivists, Communists, Atheists, Agnostics, Hebrews, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Gods and Earths, Unitarian Universalists, Jehovah Witnesses, Baha'is, Buddhists, Rastafarians, Nuwabians, Freethinkers, Humanists, Vodouisants, Santeros, Practitioners and Experiencers of African Traditional Religions and Spirituality, Experiencers and Practitioners of Indigenous Spirituality and Traditions, Scientologists, Spiritual Nomads, or Truth-Seekers...Let Us Work In The Vineyard As Our Respective Father(s) Have Commanded.
If you want to discuss taking our struggle to a higher and more effective level, and take action steps toward it, please join us October 26th to the 28th for "Business and Building" II in Washington D.C.:
Thursday, October 4, 2007