Jesus, surely you don’t mean me? Do you ever catch yourself breezing through a passage of scripture, especially one you have read a time or two before, and close your Bible at the end satisfied that you’ve “done your time” but thinking nothing much struck me this time around? It happens.
In Matthew 25 Jesus discusses some of the events that will occur when he makes his return to earth. There will be consequences for nations and individuals, the sheep (those who are righteous and have honored God in life by faithful service) and the goats ( those who God deems unrighteous and have not honored God by serving according to his character and his commands). Jesus is not talking here about a salvation by works. It doesn’t work that way. Even our daily routines are not structured that way. What a drag that would be to do the “nicer” things in life out of a sense of obligation. Would it then really be a “nice” thing to do? What we do for others out of willing human kindness, compassion and out of sacrifice is what distinguishes love, isn’t it?
If Jesus meant what he said, and I have no reason to question him or suppose he was joking or using hyperbole to motivate us, we need to take our mission of serving very seriously. Didn’t the leader of this movement say in Matthew 20:28 regarding serving him by serving others, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many?” How could we miss this? He is speaking to you and me. He’s telling us that the example he has set for us is not to turn a blind eye to needs, but do what we can to help with what he has given us. As with Peter and John, we may not have gold and silver to give, but we have other things, one of the sweetest of these is giving time.
How much time is enough? I don’t know. That sounds like a God question. But just look at some of the basics Jesus uses to illustrate and with your willing creative mind I’ll bet you can see an opportunity for yourself within the webs of your relationships or even in your neighborhood. Jesus referenced feeding the hungry. I bet even a plate of brownies to a neighbor might qualify and open the door to conversation, or a meal to a homebound person. We don’t see many naked people (yet) on the streets of Asheville, but there are places where the needy and homeless gather and they could use the least of fresh clothing items.
When we hear of someone who is sick, there are all sorts of ways to help. Providing a meal. Cut the grass. Do their laundry. Clean their house. Buy their meds. Help with their kids. How many single Moms could use a hand and a break and they are all around us. For those Jesus mentions who are in prison, being behind bars in jail isn’t the only prison. Perhaps someone is homebound or shut in. Prison can be an emotional captivity also. The point is, if we allow our lives to slow down a bit and we look to the left and the right, we will see needs, opportunities to serve as Jesus served. Even if you lack imagination, begin to make a practice of looking for ways to help, show kindness, and just show the initiative.
The warning Jesus gives regarding the fate of sheep and goats is disturbing and frightening. It is meant to be. What we do for those in need is the same as doing it for Jesus himself. What we have the opportunity to see and choose to ignore is dangerous ground. Jesus replied “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.” We’d best not tell Jesus we were too busy or ask about age limits. Think About It.