The following is an excerpt from The Hole in our Gospel~ by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“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. 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 sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty 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?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘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.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
What is perhaps most surprising is that the criterion for dividing the two groups is not that the sheep confessed faith in Christ while the goats did not, but rather that the sheep had acted in tangible and loving ways toward the poor, the sick…while the goats did not… Those whose faith found no expression in compassion to the needy were banished into eternal fire.
Why is this passage so sobering for us to read in the twenty-first century? Might it be that it hits us very close to home? Let me take some liberties and paraphrase these verses for today’s reader:
For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. ..I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out the behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved.
…I want to be clear that this does not mean we are saved by piling up enough good works to satisfy God. No, it means that any authentic and genuine commitment to Christ will be accompanied by demonstrable evidence of a transformed life.
The man who says, “I know him”, but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” I John 2:3-4
What might He be calling you to do today? What new steps of faith might you take to demonstrate your own concern for “the least of these”?