“I tell you the truth…” Matthew 25:40&45
Jesus concluded His teaching outside the temple by describing how God would delineate between those allowed entrance into Heaven and those denied entrance into Heaven. He likened the two groups to sheep and goats (vv.32-33): the sheep, being the souls who lived lives of love which met the felt needs of others (vv.36-40), were corralled to His right, and the goats to His left. The sheep would be called into Heaven with the words, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” (v.34) The goats, those who ignored the felt needs of others, were turned away from Heaven with these words: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” (v.41)
Both groups, however, had one thing in common: they were clueless of their actions. That one common character trait, though, makes a huge difference in their world view. How is forgetting their actions a character trait? Both groups acted from their default reaction or reflex: one reacting to others felt needs with mercy and care; the other reacting without concern for one’s fellow man and denying the care needed. The members of each group asked the same question: “Lord, when did we see you…?” (vv.37&44). Both times Jesus began His answer with our phrase under study, ITYTT, and each time that phrase was used to support an eternal truth pronounced upon the souls of both groups.
Matthew records the sheep being the first to who asked:
“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
Those caring souls heard The Lord’s simple reply: “ITYTT, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (v.40)
The Master-Teacher drove home the point of the uncaring goats in His condemnation of their heartless actions:
“Depart from me, you who are cursed into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.” (vv. 41 – 43)
When the goats asked when they ever saw him in such desperation, The King replied, “ITYTT, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (v.45)
Matthew recorded Jesus’ concluding remarks about the two groups, beginning with those denied entrance into Heaven: “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (v.46)
The eternal truths revealed in this scriptural passage are found in verse forty-six: the goats will face the eternal flames of Hell’s judgment; the sheep will enter into the abundance of Heaven, knowing eternal lives of joy.
These words by Jesus may have inspired James to write:
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:14-22)
Those who live on an autopilot of goodness often do not recall their acts of care and philanthropy… it is their default mode for living. Their hearts are moved to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. On the other hand, those who live on an autopilot of ‘selfcenteredness’ often do not recall their occasions of insensitivity to the needs of others… it is their default mode for living – their hearts are hard and their eyes are unaffected by the apparent needs of others.
There is a crisis at our country’s borders. Thousands upon thousands of people are clamoring for unfettered entrance into our country, seeking the American dream of independence and prosperity. Among those entering are also some who may seek to do our country harm. The alarming increase in illegal immigration is placing an unsustainable strain upon our educational, healthcare, law enforcement, and judicial systems. These are issues that must be addressed by our elected representatives and officials of the social systems I just described.
How are Christians to respond? We are to extend a hand of care and kindness to these strangers in our midst, while also offering solutions to meet the felt needs of both immigrants and citizens. Christians have a once in a generation opportunity to present both the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who may have never heard it, and the spirit of that gospel through appropriate care. The rule of law is essential to protect our republic, and the way of love will instill peace in a community and nation dealing with the issues we face today.
Have a blessed day…