31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 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. 35 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 took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’ 40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’
Matthew 25:31–40 (HCSB)
When you read this text you see that Jesus is teaching about the future, but He is also teaching how the present affects the future. When you look at the life of a Christian, there should be a difference in them because of their relationship with Jesus Christ. All Christians are called to live a life that has been transformed by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ on their behalf. This is a work that not only transforms the heart of a Christian, but their life as well. So as a person is transformed by the grace and mercy of God, there will always be marks of distinction that give proof to the miraculous and eternal transformation that has taken place.
Jesus, in vv35-36, speaks to His disciples about six areas of need that ultimately would be met by a group of his followers.
35 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 took Me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you took care of Me; I was in prison and you visited Me.’
In reading these verses Jesus shares with His disciples the reality that there are real needs in this world and they are, to some degree, the responsibility of the Church, which is comprised of a collective body of individual Christians. In the three texts below there are things we must be aware of when it comes to how a Christian is to live in the world with respect to those in need.
1. Christians have been given a new command, John 13:34–35 (HCSB)
34 “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
2. Works should accompany a Christian’s faith, James 2:14–17 (HCSB)
14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.
3. Love for a Christian is a verb, 1 John 3:16–18 (HCSB)
16 This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need but closes his eyes to his need—how can God’s love reside in him? 18 Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.
The truth is that the LORD God has blessed all of His children with more than we deserve and all Christians need to be careful with what God has given to us, how we use what we have, and why we do what we do with the things that God has given to us as we are managers, stewards, caretakers of the many blessings of God.
As well, a Christian does not work for their salvation, rather a Christian works because of their salvation. All the while, Christians do what they do for other Christians (fellow brothers and sisters in Christ) while never forgetting that it doesn’t stop there. Not only does a Christian help other Christians, they help their neighbors who may not know Christ in a redemptive and saving way. Why? simple, it’s biblical.
Jesus in the text tells His disciples of six needs, but there is another need, it is the need to be loved with a complete and holy love, the love of God.
John 3:13–17 (HCSB)
13 No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven —the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 so that everyone who believes in Him will have eternal life. 16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
It is the love of God through the work of Jesus Christ that meets the greatest need of man, being loved, being forgiven, being transformed into the very image of Christ. This is who every Christian is called to be and who every Christian should desire to be as we:
- feed the hungry
- give drink to the thirsty
- take in the stranger
- cloth the naked
- care for the sick
- visit those in prison
William Barclay, in his commentary of the Gospel of Matthew, tells the story of Martin of Tours. He was a Roman soldier and a Christian. One cold winter day, as he was entering a city, a beggar stopped him and asked for alms. Martin had no money; but the beggar was blue and shivering with cold, and Martin gave what he had. He took off his soldier’s coat, worn and frayed as it was; he cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar man. that night he had a dream. In it he saw the heavenly places and all the angels and Jesus in the midst of them; and Jesus was wearing half of a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels said to Him, “Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?” And Jesus answered softly, “my servant Martin gave it to me”.
For every Christian there is a moment of transformation, one moment that changes every moment after that. That is what God can do for us through the sacrifice of His One and Only Son Jesus Christ. What a blessing and what an opportunity to live a life of transformation as we seek to care for those around us and hope for the salvation and transformation of others.
“And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for Me’.”