The Sheep and the Goats – Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus tells a parable in the gospel of Matthew about Judgment Day when all the nations will be gathered before him. He says this will happen when the “Son of Man” returns to the earth. In essence, He is saying, “Ok. Time’s up. Game’s over. Let’s see how we did.”
The King, Jesus, proceeds to separate all the people from every tribe, tongue, and nation into two groups. One, the “sheep” or the righteous, are the good group. And the other, the “goats”, are the bad group. His criteria for dividing the groups is interesting. It isn’t based on talent, status, or finances, but rather based on how people responded to those in society that were the least, the lowest, and the weakest.
King Jesus addresses those on His right and says, I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison and you cared for me. You met my needs. You took me in. You visited me. Looking at the King, the righteous ask when they would have done that for Him.
To their amazement, Jesus answers them with words that transcend our understanding, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”And then He added, “Enter into your heavenly rest.”
Then He says to those on His left, the goats, I was hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and in prison and you did nothing for me. Again the question is, when? After all, we wouldn’t have passed you by, Jesus. His response was, “I tell you, whatever you failed to do for one of the least of my brothers of mine, you failed to do for me. Depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”
The righteous will go on to eternal life; but the complacent, into eternal punishment.
This is the only description of judgment day that we have in scripture. Does it jive with other teaching in the Bible? Yes, I think so.
James, the brother of Jesus writes about a deedless faith in 2:14 says, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?”
Paul writes in his letter to the Galatian church that a Christian living by the Spirit of God will demonstrate “Fruits” of the faith. Namely, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23). These “Fruits of the Spirit” are best displayed through acts of kindness such as caring for the least of these. Those who cannot easily care for themselves.
How do we care for those around us who need it?
- See them – We don’t live in a culture where we “see” each other very well. You can go through your entire day and never “see” another person even though they are all around you. But simply observing someone, and watching what are they doing, where they are going, their facial expressions, etc, will give you hints about their condition. Strike up a conversation. Get to know them and their life.
- The needs are visible. It’s written on their face, it’s in their voice. Nakedness, sickness, and being in prison are all very visible conditions. As you observe people, you will notice their needs. Chat with them and take an interest in them and what they value. It’s likely they will share their needs with you once they feel comfortable with you.
- Ask if you can help. Be humble. Be kind. If you can meet a need, ask the person if they are open to receiving your help. Some may say, “Thank you, but I’m okay.” Even if that is their response, you can leave the door open by saying something like, “Well, if you ever need something, let me know.”
If you will look and SEE people, their needs will become visible to you. Ask if you can help and see the incarnate Jesus in them by serving them.