For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
Matthew 25:35-36 (NIV)
Read: Matthew 25:31-46
Consider: Today’s reading from Matthew 25 starts with: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne (Matthew 25:31). Jesus is speaking here of the end times when he will return to judge the earth. Notice that no-one will escape his scrutiny. We read: ‘All nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another …’ (25:32). No-one will be exempt from his gaze. Jesus uses the analogy of the separation of sheep and goats. The sheep symbolise the righteous, while the goats symbolise the ungodly.
This parable is used by Jesus to make us think about how we put our faith into action. The righteous (sheep) are commended in these words: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me (25:35-36). The opposite is said of the ungodly (goats) who failed to show any concern for others.
What Jesus is talking about, is believers should have compassion on those in need and a concern for the welfare of others. Of course, meeting physical needs must be balanced with a real concern for the spiritual welfare of people. It is possible for believers and congregations to adopt an extreme stance on this. Both extremes are wrong – spiritual concern, without care for the needy; care for the needy, without concern for a person’s spiritual condition. Care for the needy without concern for a person’s spiritual condition, can lead to people seeing good works as a way to heaven. Concern for a person’s spiritual welfare, to the exclusion of meeting their physical needs, reveals the condition of a person’s heart. James in his letter puts it this way:What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If any of you says to them: ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (James 2:14-16). James then uses the examples of Abraham and Rahab to show that it is important to put our faith into action. One way of doing so is to have a real concern for the welfare of others.
So why as a Christian should we have a concern for the needs of others – not because we must, but because we want to. Our actions towards others should be an expression of the love and care God has shown to us.
Then the King will say to those on his right, “come, you who are blessed by my Father; Take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world (Matthew 25:34).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Pray: Father, may our lives be balanced, so that while we seek to share the good new of the gospel with others, we also have a real concern for those in need. Amen
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