“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink,I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:31-40 (ESV)
I have been in an amazing group of women for an online Retreat (He must Increase, I must Decrease.) It is small this year. It is the first time, but if you ever get a chance to be in it, grab the opportunity. It is stretching. We are in GOD’s Word but we are also learning more about blogging. It is different from anything I have experienced.
We are learning from each other. It is the kind of group I have missed since my Jamaica and Miami years. It is a little multi-cultural. I so love that. There is nothing like it! We come from different backgrounds and find that GOD’s Word speaks truth to all of us. Amazing isn’t it?!
We were talking yesterday on our private site and I was reminded of this passage when discussing something else. I keep thinking it is in the Sermon on the Mount. It turns out I was wrong on that one! Right book, wrong chapter!
The sheep and goats are separated
Obviously, the division between the sheep and goats takes place before this discussion. Yes, I cheated and looked in my study Bible. Whether these were sheep or goats was based on what they did with Jesus in the first place. What I read suggested that the actions of these sheep showed the change in them. The desire to help people who are hungry, naked, sick or in prison is not natural.
The actions of the sheep showed the change GOD had made in their hearts
Our natural tendency is to want to take care of ourselves! We might even want to take care of those we love…if it doesn’t put us out too much! Our natural tendency is to bathe in the lap of luxury and comfort, convenience and ease. We don’t like inconvenience or discomfort. Don’t even talk about pain or suffering. Please! Keep it away! I don’t want it in my universe.
What were things like at the time this book was written?
Transport yourself back to the time these words were spoken and think of the conditions for these groups of people. They were extremely abysmal! There were no people then to speak up for humane conditions for prisoners…or to provide for safe and healthy places to care for the sick…or to provide for food and clothing for the poor.
All of that came as a result of the Gospel! Contrary to common opinion in some circles, it came about from the changes in the hearts of believers who weren’t afraid of the danger to themselves of caring for those who were ill or in prison.
They were radical in their hospitality, taking people they didn’t know into their homes to care for them, often without knowing them at all! They did it all for the love of Christ.
There were beggars and sick people wandering around everywhere, begging for food and help. Can you imagine what it was like to walk the streets with blind people and people with ugly, oozing diseases sitting or roaming, begging for help? Often, there wasn’t much that could be done! Ugh! Just as in many parts of the world, a person would have to become hardened to their conditions…or stop and spend time to care for them, ministering the love of Christ to them.
How did the early Church function?
But wait! What did the early Church do? They ministered to these very people. That wasn’t the formula for growing a big movement! They were breaking all the rules! They reached out to the people who had nothing to offer and ministered to them!
It was the Church that started the first hospitals, that ministered to the poor and imprisoned. It was the Church that also started the first Colleges and educational institutions. Even now, look at places like Columbia University in New York City. Etched into their buildings are words that talk about GOD and His glory. These schools have long ago left their moorings, but they can’t get the words off their buildings. I have to laugh! But I digress.
This passage is talking about a lot more than a list of do’s and don’t’s. It is talking about a change of heart that GOD works in His people: the sheep. How do we know? Because they weren’t even aware that they were doing it! They were ministering to people who were hungry and sick and in prison and naked and they weren’t even aware of the difficulty or that at the same time they were serving Christ!
That is a major change of heart! Only one Person could bring that change about! Jesus Christ. You may not even notice…the inconvenience, the discomfort, the mess? Wow! That is some kind of love!
That isn’t to say you can’t help your kids learn to be compassionate and look around them at those who are hurting. But ultimately, it is the love of Christ who will implant that love for others in each of us as we grow in our love for Him.
How can you tell if you are a sheep or a goat?
If our “love for Christ” results in more and more safe, self-serving activity for ourselves, our church and people like us, we need to re-examine it. It may just be a counterfeit of something we are trying to hold out for others to be impressed by.
If our love for Christ results in a care for others that we aren’t statisticizing, (is that even a word?) but merely doing from the heart. There may be something there. It may not be huge. But genuine is more important than huge in the eyes of Christ. Evidently, the GOD of the Universe isn’t really impressed by numbers.
Who knew? So next time you wonder if the work you are doing is important to GOD, take a look at this passage. What is important to Him? “The least of these.”
Is your life involved with service to “the least of these” in some way?
Some may be in your own home or family. Some may be at your job. Wherever they are, we are called to minister to them with the love of Christ! it is the kind that doesn’t come naturally to us.
Do you need to stretch a bit in this area?
Are you encouraged to see the changes you realize only GOD could have made in your heart?
Here is the link to Fellowship Friday #22 for today.