Next Sunday, we’re going to begin studying through the book of Matthew together. As I’ve been reading through Matthew, there have been several passages that God has used to convict me. The following passage is one of those (I recognize that this passage is long, and probably familiar, but please humor me and read it one more time):
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.
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. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 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.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-46 ESV)
I believe that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works. However, it seems that this salvation results in certain outward signs – works. The works are so important that in this passage Jesus says that the “righteous” and the “wicked” – the “sheep” and the “goats” if you prefer – can be divided based on what they do for “the least of these”. In fact, he says that whatever we do for “the least of these” we are actually doing for Jesus, and whatever we refuse to do for “the least of these” we are in reality refusing to do it for Jesus. This is an expression of faith or an expression of a lack of faith.
This is certainly not the only passage dealing with faith. And, again, I’m not suggesting that we are saved because of our works. I do not believe that at all. However, as James says, the kind of faith that saves us is also the kind of faith that works. I don’t think we can separate the two. Similarly, John says that faith results in love – love for God and love for other people. In fact, he says that if someone does not love a brother or sister in need by providing for that need, that the love of God is not in that person. That’s quite a statement!
My heart is being moved toward “the least of these” – the widow, the orphan, the stranger (alien), the oppressed, the sick, the hungry, the prisoner, the destitute. As my heart is being moved closer to “the least of these” I think it is also being moved closer to God.
I’ve had a few opportunities recently to demonstrate my love and concern for “the least of these”. God used me to demonstrate his love in some of those instances. I wish I could say that I was always faithful in demonstrating the love of Christ, but I was not. I’m learning. I’m growing. I’m becoming more faithful. But, I’m not there yet.
How has God given you opportunities to love and care for “the least of these”?