February 4, 2019

Evidence of true righteousness

In the first book of the New Testament, Matthew is writing to the Jews to show them that Jesus is their Messiah. This is a long yet familiar passage about true righteousness and the judgment of the nations . . .

“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)

While some Bible scholars determine the sheep and goats are certain people groups and this is about how they treat the Jews during the tribulation of the last days, I’m seeing a general big-picture view. Jesus is saying that how I treat others in need is a demonstration of my love for God. That is, if I turn my back on those who are hungry or sick, etc. then I am proving that Jesus is of no interest to me. My concern for others is a measuring device for obedience to God.

In those days, needy people as defined in the passage were not hard to find. Today, depending on the circles one travels in, they might not be so visible. How often do I see a homeless person? Or someone hungry or thirsty? It is -30C today. I would not likely see anyone without clothing. This passage is simple in that when I do see those in need, and because my faith is real, I should be helping them.

Jesus was talking to the disciples, Jewish men who were in a culture that looked down on anyone who was not a Jew and whose religious leaders were not into much charity ministry. They were not noted for feeding the hungry or visiting the sick. Maybe they thought such things were beneath them. The big picture is that the Lord is not impressed with religion that ignores human need. I am to love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength and the way that I do it is to love my neighbor by doing what I can to meet their needs.

In my neighborhood, hunger is unlikely, but people are sometimes sick, often lonely, and struggle with needs other than physical. It takes time spent, a listening ear, and Holy Spirit discernment to know the best way to show them the love of God. Kind words have value to a sad heart.

Lord, on this cold day, most of those around me just want to keep warm. If it were warmer, they could be open to sharing tea and a visit, but today is one of those hibernation days where a phone call could be a good thing. Give me wisdom and willingness to show Your love to those around me this day.

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