Does thinking about God’s last judgment keep you awake at night? What would happen if you dropped off to sleep and didn’t wake up? Would you be ready to meet your Maker? And how do you know for sure? What standard will God use to judge you? Major sins only? Little white lies, or the more despicable ones? The Ten Commandments only or the seven deadly sins of traditional Christianity?
On our way to the answer, let’s think of dandelions. Remember how Jesus said, “Consider the lilies” (Matthew 6:28, KJV), when He wanted to make the point that God cares for us? Not that He ever said, “Consider the dandelions,” when teaching about the judgment, but I think that, too, would make a great parable.
Before we go there, though, let’s take a step back and see what the Bible says about judgment. Then we’ll come back to the dandelions.
the judgment is coming!
God gave the prophet Daniel a vision in which he saw a vivid description of God’s judgment: “The Ancient of Days [God] took his seat. . . . [And] ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:9, 10).
Writing in Revelation, the prophet John described a similar scene: “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. . . . Each person was judged according to what they had done” (Revelation 20:12, 13). So, we’ll be judged by our deeds.
But wait, there’s more, this time from the lips of Jesus Himself: “I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:36, 37). So we’ll be judged not only by what we do but also by what we say.
And that isn’t all. Jesus also insisted that when He arrives in judgment, He will separate the “sheep” (people who cared for those in need) from the “goats” (people who didn’t; see Matthew 25:31–46). The sheep will be saved, and the goats will be lost. Does this make you squirm a little—or a lot? It does me. We’ve all done things and said things that we shouldn’t have, and we’ve all ignored people who need help.
But God goes even deeper. Paul wrote about “the day when God will judge the secrets of men” (Romans 2:16, NKJV).* By “the secrets of men,” Paul meant our thoughts and motives, which we try to keep hidden, even from those closest to us. But God will uncover and judge them all.
By now maybe you’ve stopped squirming and started trembling! You’re asking yourself whether there’s anyone who can possibly make it through the judgment!
Take courage! I’m about to unveil to you—the dandelions!
enter the dandelions
As a farm boy in South Dakota, I didn’t worry about dandelions, and neither did my parents. We had a farmyard, not a manicured lawn. Actually, when dandelions popped up every spring, I enjoyed their cheerful dots of yellow. Later, when they became puffballs, I bent down and picked them and blew on them and watched their little seed-parachutes fly away to take root and create other dandelion plants.
But now, for the past decade and a half, my wife and I have been living in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association. We know that the association’s volunteers are on the prowl, making sure everybody keeps their lawns mowed and free of weeds. And few weeds are as brightly noticeable as dandelions!
Our front yard is small and thus easier to control, and over the years I’ve kept it pretty weed-free. But the backyard is four times larger, and I’ll confess that in the past I’ve let it go a bit so that every year I’ve had to do a lot of excavation work to uproot the ugly, flat, green splatters of dandelion plants!
Then one day, I got smart and learned how to deal with them. And that’s what dandelions have to do with the judgment.
dandelions and the judgment
When you learn the full story about the judgment, you can lose all your worries if you take the right steps. Most of you reading this are probably lawn experts, and you’re going to giggle at this, but I was such a lawn klutz that I hadn’t really focused on weed killers that might help.
I guess I had the idea that I had to dig up every single dandelion plant in my yard and then keep a desperately vigilant eye out for any new ones all throughout the season. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of spare surveillance time to spend in my backyard. Luckily, it was hidden from the homeowners’ association behind a wooden fence and was, therefore, less of a priority. So, as the days went by, the dormant dandelions would sprout, and soon the yard was a disaster again.
Finally, realizing that this was no way for a civilized person to live, I bit the bullet and drove to my local hardware store and asked for advice. They promptly provided me not only with advice but with a large bag of turf builder that included something called Weed ’n’ Feed. I also bought an applicator to spread this around.
Rather pessimistically, I applied the contents of the bag to both my front and back lawns, and to my astonishment, only two or three dandelions grew back! Another year, and another application, and I definitely had those weeds on the run.
And to me, this is an almost perfect parable about God’s judgment. Here’s why.
let God destroy the seeds!
As you’re wondering about how your life will measure up in the judgment, the last thing you want to do is to start a bookkeeping ledger, with columns labeled Deeds, Words, Thoughts, and Care for the Poor. When he was 20 years old, Benjamin Franklin tried something like that, listing 13 virtues in a little notebook, and he checked off the ones he was successful with.
As I remember from reading his autobiography, Franklin worked on this experiment for two months and finally gave it up as a failure. He discovered that while he was working hard on humility, for example, he would fail in some of the other good traits he’d listed. Sound familiar? That’s how I was trying to control my backyard dandelions!
The key thing to remember is that sin, singular, isn’t words or deeds or thoughts. Those are sins, plural. Sin, singular, is basically selfishness on steroids. Sin is a seed, and it’s from that seed that sins, plural, grow. Chills go down my spine every time I read one of the Bible’s most horrifying verses. It talks about the wicked people who lived before the Flood: “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).
Their thoughts were only evil all the time. Those pre-Flood people had ignored the appeals of the Holy Spirit and had allowed the seeds of sin to ripen so completely that their minds and hearts were thoroughly corrupt—the way some lawns can become so sorry-looking that it’s best just to rip them out and lay down new sod. Sins, plural, are like those large, broad dandelion leaves that keep the sun from nourishing the grass and other useful plants.
But if we let Him, God has the power to root out the sin in our hearts.
how to live judgment-ready
I’ll offer you two suggestions on how to be ready for God’s coming judgment.
First, give God permission to search and destroy sin in your heart, the way David did. “Search me, God, and know my heart,” he begged. “Test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23, 24). It’s as if God is a homeowners’ association volunteer who not only spots the weeds in your yard but comes into your yard and deals with them!
Second, allow the Holy Spirit to change you. Hacking fiercely away at those dandelions in my own strength wasn’t the way to get rid of them. I needed a weed killer. That’s a rather indelicate way to talk about the Holy Spirit, but that is one of His roles! He eradicates sin, not by hacking away at it, but by replacing it with something healthier.
Since sin is selfishness, think of all the evil deeds, words, and thoughts that will vanish when the Holy Spirit is allowed to go to work in your heart! Because that’s exactly what the Bible says: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” Paul says in Galatians 5:22, 23. If these qualities fill your heart, evil deeds won’t sprout, evil words won’t rise to your lips, evil thoughts won’t form in your mind, and your heart will turn toward those in need. This happy condition doesn’t come primarily from discipline but from the Holy Spirit’s work.
And as we continue to seek His presence in our hearts and make the choices He guides us to make, we’ll be ready for the judgment.
* Bible verses marked NKJV are taken from the New King James Version®.
Maylan Schurch is pastor of the Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist in Bellevue, Washington, USA. He is a frequent contributor to Signs of the Times®.