Once upon a time, there lived a woman who wished she could understand the difference between Heaven and Hell. She petitioned God for such an experience, and one day God came to her in a dream.
God said to the woman, “I have heard your prayer, and I am willing to grant your request. I will show you Hell first.”
At once, they entered a grand dining hall. The tables filled with a vast assortment of the finest foods, displayed with all the grandeur of the finest kingdoms. Her attention then turned to those sitting around the tables. They were weeping, profoundly sad, malnourished and physically pathetic. With such a magnificent feast before them, it was very odd that everyone was sickly thin, and no one ate. It was then she noticed each of them had a large 3-foot long spoon. The people could easily reach the food but because of the length of the spoon, it was impossible for them to get the spoon to their mouths.
“Oh Father, how sad” the woman sighed. "To be surrounded by so much, such abundance and yet to starve. Indeed, this must be Hell.”
“We shall now see Heaven,” said God.
They entered another majestic dining hall. These tables too filled with a vast assortment of the finest foods, elegantly displayed. Her attention then turned to those sitting around the table. These people were laughing and singing. They were full of joy, pleasantly plump and healthy in stature. It was then she noticed the same peculiar 3 foot long spoons. The very same she had seen while in Hell, and yet these people were happy, rejoicing and evidently well fed and healthy.
She turned to God and said “I am confused. These people here in Heaven have the same peculiar spoons as those who reside in Hell. What is the difference?”
God smiled and said, “These people have learned that a 3-foot spoon is best-used to feed someone else.”
She then woke up.
(Story adapted from Doorway to the Soul: 52 Wisdom Tales from Around the World, by Elisa Pearmain. Wipf & Stock Pub. 2007)
Is it possible for someone to have so much and still be so poor? Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He asked "what does it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose their own soul?
Jesus has a lot to say to us about life in the Kingdom of God. He often illustrates that the hallmark of the Kingdom is love, and this looks a lot like serving and caring for others. Jesus says such scandalous things like to be first we must choose to be last and to love our neighbor as yourself. He speaks of laying down our lives for others including our enemies. Jesus sums it up in John 13 as He encourages his friends to love others as He has loved us.
What might loving as Jesus look like in your home, work, and neighbourhood? Who are those hard to love, seemingly undeserving people in your life that you could serve with a 3-foot long heaping spoonful of mercy, compassion, and forgiveness?