THE “WHEAT” AND THE “CHAFF” (Matthew 3:12)

My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ God,


THE "WHEAT" AND THE "CHAFF" (Matthew 3:12)

"His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly
clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the
barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire"
(Matthew 3:12).

The image of "winnowing" the threshed grain from the "chaff" is a metaphor for Divine Judgment, which always SEPARATES THE GOOD FROM EVIL.

Saint Theophylact says, "His winnowing fan is in His hand." Do not think, if you are baptized by Him and then remain an unrepentant sinner, that He will forgive you. For He also has a winnowing fan, that is, judgment and examination. "He will clean His threshing floor," namely, the Church, which holds many who are baptized, just the threshing floor holds all the crop. But some of those who are baptized are chaff, those who are light-minded and moved about by the evil spirits, while others are the wheat, who bring benefit to others and nourish them with teachings and deeds. "And gather the wheat into His granary, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." That the fire is unquenchable. Therefore Origen the heretic is babbling nonsense when he said that there will be an end to hell.

Here Saint Theophylact is referring to Origen’s teaching of "apokatastasis", i.e. "restoration," which was condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Synod in Constantinople in 553 A.D. According to the heretical teaching, the punishment of the demons and the impious in hell will one day come to an end, and "all will be restored."

Saint John the Baptist anticipates Divine Judgment on God’s people through the coming of the Messiah. "Fire" is a symbol of destruction, and often describes the Final Judgment. "And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (v. 10). According to Saint Theophylact, "the axe means the judgment of Christ, and the trees stand for each one of us. Therefore, he who has not believed, and thus is rooted only in himself, is now and henceforward being cut down into Gehenna. "Therefore every tree," even though descended from Abraham, "which bringeth not forth good fruit." He did not say, "which hath not brought forth," but "which bringeth not forth," for one must continually be bringing forth fruit. For if you gave alms yesterday but today you are greedy and grasping, you are not pleasing to God. "Is hewn down and cast into the fire." The fire, that is, of Gehenna."

This warning of Saint John the Baptist who is anticipating the Messiah to come is very clear that He will bring Divine judgment on God’s people. It behooves all believers to prepare themselves for that judgment. No one can escape Divine Judgment. One must not only flee from evil and wickedness but also bring forth fruits (works) of virtue. "Turn away from evil and do good" (Psalm 33:4).

"Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand," declared Jesus. The Kingdom of Heaven is Christ Himself and it is also the life of virtue. For when someone lives as an Angel on earth, is he not heavenly? So the Kingdom of heaven is within each one of us when we live as Angels. The monastic life in the Orthodox Church is referred to as the "angelic life." The life of monks and nuns of our Church live a life of virtue, a life of ceaseless prayer, and charity. However, it is not exclusively a monastic life for it should be the life of every Orthodox Christian living in the world.

Jesus said, "For this reason, I say unto you, Take no thought of your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor yet for your body, what you shall put on." (Matthew 6:25), Saint Theophylact comments, "For this reason" –for what reason? Because concern over money drives a man away from God. The soul does not eat, for it is bodiless, but Jesus said this according to the common use of the word. For it is obvious that the soul does not consent to remain in a body if the flesh is not fed. Jesus does not forbid us to work, but rather He forbids us to give ourselves over entirely to our cares and to neglect God. Hence we must work for our livelihood while not neglecting the soul. "Is not life more than food, and the body more than raiment?" This means, will not He Who gave what is greater, life itself, and fashioned the body, will He not also give food and clothing?" "Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" This means, even if you take the utmost care, you can do nothing if God does not will it. Why then do you dive yourself to exhaustion with futile worries?"

A person of faith is a person who places his life in God’s Divine hands. "The Kingdom of God is the enjoyment of all that is good. This comes through righteousness. To him who seeks after the spiritual things of God in His generosity adds that which is needed for physical life." What is required by us is to trust God implicitly. There can be no doubt in His Divine will knowing that He, our Savior, sacrificed His life on the Cross to save us, unworthy as we all are. It is the evil one who should not be trusted for he hates mankind and desires our destruction and death. We need only to open our eyes and see the evil working among men and the destruction, the chaos, the pain, the confusion, the divisions, the fear and hate that it brings. Whatever we ask, unhesitantly believing in God’s power, we shall receive. We must, however, not ask for something foolish and unprofitable. We seek only those things which are profitable for us and for things which will lead to our salvation.

"Glory Be To GOD
All Things!"
– Saint John Chrysostomos
+ + +

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+ Father George

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