What is the Payoff of Your Religion?

April 16, 2018

Categories: Parables

I’d like to do something a little different today and share a parable by the theologian Peter Rollins. (Note: The language in the parable is framed toward Christians, but if that’s not your tradition, try to substitute language from your own religious or cultural tradition.) The parable goes something like this:

The Payoff

Imagine that you come to the end of your life and die. You have lived a full life. As best as you could, you have tried to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ in all that you do. You prayed that Jesus would forgive your sins and accepted Jesus into your heart when you were a child. And although you weren’t perfect, you did your best to live a life that was worthy of your calling from God.

After you die, you immediately find yourself in heaven, outside the throne room where all people are to be judged by God. You feel scared, but also excited to meet God face to face.

When it is your turn, you enter the throne room. Much to your shock and surprise, who you see sitting on the throne is NOT God or Jesus. Instead, sitting on the throne is actually the devil himself, a grotesque, menacing, frightening creature. The devil informs you that he has conquered heaven and cast God down into hell, where people are punished for all eternity. Similarly, he has cast Jesus Christ out of heaven and into the darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.

He gives you a choice: If you are willing to bend your knee to him, he will allow you to stay in heaven, and live out your eternity in paradise. However, if you refuse, he will cast you down to hell forever. You will be with God, but suffer eternal torment.

What would you do?

(Note: If you liked this parable, you can find more of Peter’s parables here.)


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  1. Ann April 17, 2018 at 10:31 am - Reply

    That is a weird parable. If the Devil won, he would be God, for all intents and purposes. If he won, paradise would no longer be paradise, because he hates love, beauty, truth, unity, joy-all that is God. God’s presence creates paradise.
    If the Devil “won” his very presence would create hell, as he is is all that is not God: hatred, isolation, pain, sadness, fear, darkness. So, the Devil would turn paradise into hell because hell is an effect of of his presence.
    I guess if the Devil won, he could restrict God’s power, but not change his essence. What is the point of this parable?

  2. Joshua Hook April 17, 2018 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    It is a little different. I think he was trying to get us to reflect on why we choose to love and follow God. Do we do it just for the rewards (e.g., heaven), or is it something deeper?

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