Several years back, a good Christian man, whom I highly respected, shared a story that catches the eternal essence, and difference between a Christian’s attitude and an unbeliever’s attitude. His tale went something like this:

Hell can be pictured like an enormous banquet hall, extremely large with rows and rows of tables. These are nicely decorated and piled high with lots of delicious food: juicy steak, potatoes (mashed, baked, fried, and scalloped), an assortment of enjoyable vegetables, desserts, ice cream, and varieties of pies, copious drinks and a plethora of lovely salads. Every person was seated with plates, drinking glasses, but no silverware or eating tools.

Instead, each individual’s arms were attached to spoons and forks, but without hands. They were to use these items to feast on the fantastic meal before them. However, there was one major difficulty. The distance from the elbow to the end of the eating utensil was double in length. Instead of the normal eighteen inches, it had extended to over thirty-six inches. Their forearm was so long no one was able to place any food into their mouths. Besides, no person was able to lean over to use only their mouth to eat, they were required to use the eating utensils attached to the end of their arms.

When the meal began, each participant dipped into the food before them but failed to transfer the nourishment into their waiting mouths. Some would fill their spoons and attempt to allow the succulent morsel to drop or slide down to eat it. This failed miserably. Others would toss the food into the air and endeavor to catch it with their tongue.

As much as everyone tried, not one of their attempts to eat was met with success. Different schemes were implemented, however, all failed. Nothing worked. It didn’t take long for the room to be transformed into a shambles with no recognizable form of order. No one was able to enjoy the table of nourishment set before them. Gobs of foodstuff splattered against the walls, covered the floor, smeared across the table, and plastered each participant.

Tempers flared. Shouts and screams and curses drowned out all other sounds, as the food was flung in all directions in attempts to eat the tasty morsel. This was pure hell.

My Christian friend continued his story by shifting the scene to Heaven. His description of the Lord’s banquet table was identical to the previous location: a large room, rows, and rows of tables piled high with every sort of delicious cuisine, and each participant seated in their place. Their cutlery was the same, no hands but with spoons and forks at the end of their exceptionally long arms. They were ready to partake of a bountiful feast. The difference, the only difference, each participant would take a spoonful of food and … offer it to someone else at the table. The entire scene was of friendly, cordial assistance to each other. A bit of steak was offered to their neighbor, a spoonful of soup given to the person on the other side of the table. The scene was one of appreciative thanks and joyful sharing and assisting others with the delicious meal.

The dissimilarity between these two analogies is attitude. In the scene of Hell, the thought was only of me, myself, and I. No consideration was given for or even thought about another. In Heaven, the only attitude was for others, never for ‘self’. The difference was attitude: others or self, my neighbor or me, you or I.

Leaving behind this story, if we examine our lives, actions, and motives, what is our attitude? Sadly, too often, you and I do things with motives and purposes which benefit only ‘self’. This is not the way Christ wants us to behave. Scripture encourages us to act for the benefit of others.

In Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, that story was presented to answer the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

The answer: It was the man with compassion.

Jesus’ response: go and do likewise.

My question: Do you live your life with a purpose to benefit others? Or do I?

Unless we answer “yes”, we must return to God’s school of life to relearn our lessons.