“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that people threw into the lake and gathered all kinds of fish. When it was full, they pulled it to the shore, where they sat down and put the good fish together into containers. But the bad fish they threw away. That’s the way it will be at the end of the present age. The angels will go out and separate the evil people from the righteous people, and will throw the evil ones into a burning furnace. People there will be weeping and grinding their teeth” (Matthew 13:47-50, Common English Bible).
I love to fish. I really don’t get much opportunity to do so, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy going when I get the chance. I enjoy fishing as sport but I enjoy eating the catch at least as much.
Still, I learned early as a child, you don’t keep everything you catch. I have fished in both fresh water and salt water. The same ideas apply to both. If a fish is too small, you throw it back. My dad would tell me, “Let’s throw him back. Let him grow up and we will catch him again next time.” My dad and I didn’t fish all that often but I can still hear him saying that.
I don’t really ever remember this as a kid, but at least these days, with some types of fish, if they are bigger than a certain size you have to throw them back as well. For example, a red drum has to be at least 20 inches long but no more than 28 inches long to keep it. Further, you can’t keep more than three per day. Well, at least those are the rules in Texas.
Another thing I remember is, you don’t keep every fish you catch because some just aren’t that good to eat. There was a fish my dad called a “hard head” (I think he called me that a few times too) that we never kept. We also caught a few small sharks. We didn’t keep them either. Some fish had a stronger taste. They always went back. Some fish had more bones. They got to keep swimming too.
Today’s lesson, “The Parable of the Nets,” reminds me of fishing for several reasons. First, of course, is the obvious reason. Though I never fished with a net, Jesus was still talking about fishing. And, Jesus also talked about separating the fish. It is basically what I did with my dad only over a longer period, as we caught fish.
What is different, however, Jesus wasn’t really talking about fishing. The Kingdom of Heaven is like the fish in the nets. When the catch is retrieved, the angels will separate the good from the bad. Perhaps some don’t measure up. Perhaps others just aren’t very good. Regardless of the reason, the lesson says, the good will enter the Kingdom while those who don’t measure up will be thrown away.
I know many people who ignore this parable. They believe in universal salvation, that in the end, God’s love will redeem everyone. I am not prepared to do that. I take what Scripture says here seriously, at least for me personally. I know that I need to live the kind of life in faith that will keep me in the net. If those who believe in universal salvation are right, I lose nothing. If, on the other hand, we should be living in a way that shows we belong in the net, and I don’t live that way, all is lost. Such an idea says to me, I need to strive to live in the will of God in the present so I know with confidence that my faith is well founded and I will stay in the net, entering the Kingdom of God.
What are you doing to stay in the net?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy, Peace and Thanksgiving,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved