“Serving GOD Through Our Service to Humanity”
Matthew 25:40 says:
Text: 40 ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Today, we live in an age of distraction that seductively entices us away from working towards the will of God being done “On earth as it is in heaven”. Our modern day culture promotes consumerism, personal prosperity, and a self centeredness that allows some people to conveniently leave the poor abandoned on the side of the road to die.
During the first century ministry of Jesus, the religious leaders, and governing authorities were driven by an insatiable and idolatrous lust for wealth, and power. They regularly ignored the needs of the poor. The everyday people had another type of struggle. There was the tension between holding on to Jewish religious teachings and traditions passed down through the ages and the total abandonment of the faith as they tried to embrace a new way of life.
Throughout the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is speaking to his disciples, his followers, everyday people and religious leaders in a predominantly Hellenized Jewish community. What I mean is that they were mostly Jewish people, living under the prevailing influence of Greek culture,“philosophy, education, architecture, art, and athletics”. They were also living under the oppressive military power and far reaching authority of the Roman government. This powerful Greco-Roman influence pulled their minds away from the teachings and traditions of their ancestors as they assimilated to the Greco-Roman way of life, which included amongst other things the inattentiveness to the least of those in society.
But, according to Jesus, closing our eyes to the suffering of others, equates to turning our backs on Jesus Himself.
Jesus is still looking for (the body of Christ) to serve Him through our service to others in need.
This is a non negotiable principle given to us in the Word of God.
Matthew 25:31 is where we find Jesus continuing his teachings about the kingdom of God and the end time events referred to as eschatology. The 24th and 35th chapters are fully populated with eschatological discourse.
Jesus is teaching about:
“The Coming of Christ, the Gathering and the Separation.”
Verses 31-33 says
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
We know that the people were distracted away from God by the cultural influences of the day. They were heavily vested in the excitement and so called glamour of what was going on around them in this Greco-Roman society. It was a very different situation than what their ancestors experienced while traveling through the desert, eating food dropped from heaven , being led by a cloud in the day and fire by night. They were pulled away from the teaching that came out of that desert experience.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.”
I am sure they were reeled back in from all the social distractions and they were reminded of their messianic expectation as taught to them by their elders (“When the Messiah comes he will make all things right”). Righteousness would prevail over evil, bringing an end to the age of suffering. I imagine that in, this moment as Jesus spoke that they begin to think about the fulfillment of their hope in the Son of David coming to the throne as they were taught.
Jesus continued to speak in a language that breaks through their fascination with becoming assimilated to a new way of life.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him,
I imagine that they remembered the promise of God through the prophet Jeremiah 23:3
“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture”
Perhaps they recalled how God spoke through the prophet
Ezekiel 34:13 I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land.
When Jesus said:
“he will separate the people one from another”
I can picture them looking back to the words of the Torah and the Genesis creation story, that God is the one who separates.
God separated the light from darkness, HE separated water from dry ground, HE separated day from night. It was GOD who separated the heavens from the earth.
They may have thought of how God separated the water at the Red Sea and created a way of safe passage out of Egypt for them.
Jesus brings order into the chaos of them trying to fit in and modeling themselves after the Greco Roman culture. So far Jesus is speaking to their religious minds. His language causes them to reflect on their embedded theology, the teachings received from their elders.
But now He turns to the reality of their current lived experience, as shepherds, in order to establish another point of identification.
“as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left”
Through their experience and long standing vocation as herdsmen they knew all about caring for flocks of sheep and goats. As Jesus spoke they were able to visualize this separation. They knew from experience that sheep and goats were very different. They eat differently, they act differently and at times they must be separated. At the end of the day, the herdsman would have to separate the sheep from the goats because allowing them to mate would yield tragic results.
They needed to be separated and the people in Jesus’ audience understood this analogy.
I can practically see them nodding their heads in agreement. Maybe they began to think that abandoning their faith and trying to assimilate to this new Greco Roman way of life is not such a great idea.
As the narrative continues Jesus brings further clarity and shared some good news for some people. We get to hear about:
”The Blessings of God for the People of God”
34 “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.
After this great separation, the LORD describes those who were on his right as: being “blessed by the Father.” As Jesus taught about this, perhaps they would reflect back on how God had blessed them. How as a people, GOD called them, rescued them and delivered them out of slavery in Egypt and into the promised land. They would think back on their traditional view of being the chosen people of God.
We should also remember that we are “Blessed by the Father”and it is a good time to remember all that God has done in our lives. It’s also a good time to ask ourselves the question: How can I use my privilege, resources, time and talent to serve God through serving others? If your having difficulty with this question.
Take a little time to reflect on your own testimony of your salvation experience. Consider how:
God rescued you personally, and saved you from the grips of sin.
Remember how God overshadowed you with His Love and consolation? Remember how in the midst of your struggle He touched you with His finger of love and how you’ve never been the same? How He walks with you in the midnight hour, speaks to you as the sun is rising, and stands with you in the middle of a storm? How GOD provides for you in the season of drought, sustains you, and strengthens you day by day?
I’m not done: Can you remember and identify the people that God placed in your life to minister to you, mentor you and help you in your time of need? Isn’t it good that those people were willing to look beyond their own needs and help you.
Yes, God blessed you and He used people to do it.
I’m excited about all God has done in my life and in the lives of people right I come in contact with.
Let me get back to the text
So we saw that:
The people on the right were blessed and invited to come into their inheritance by God. This is good news!
And as the scripture continues and you continue to consider ways in which you can serve.
”Jesus Personally, wholeheartedly identifies with the Suffering of Humanity”
Jesus catches his audience off guard, HE throws them a theological curveball and disturbs their perceived image of God. He says:
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 invited me in, 36 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.’
The LORD is still teaching - and now, HE reveals himself to them in a way that they did not know. Jesus was sharing with them the heart of GOD, bringing clarity and casting light on their misunderstanding, unawareness and spiritual blindness. They didn’t get it. Basically they respond with what are you talking about Jesus? You're confusing us.
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 invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
Please understand this. Their image of a messiah did not include one who would come to suffer and die. They expected him to come as a Man of War, overthrow the government and end their suffering.
The Jewish traditions of their forefathers as well their Greco/Roman enculturation didn’t connect the Christ, in the Person of Jesus, with the suffering servant of Isaiah 53:3-4 which told them:
He was despised and rejected by mankind,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
They didn’t know that the Messiah would actually suffer and die so that we could live.
Jesus names those who are afflicted, poor, and persecuted, as his brothers and sisters, and companions in suffering, who suffer as he did on earth. Jesus and the outcasts of society are united in being despised, rejected, and marginalized.
Jesus knows all about our struggles he will guide till the day is done. There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one no not one.
Verse 40 reads:
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
It is here that we are taught of our
“Serving God Through Our Service to Humanity”
To be Christian calls for us to be individually and collectively actively engaged in confronting and alleviating the sufferings of those afflicted in our society, those who stand in need.
And now Jesus directs his attention to the group on his left. And we learn of:
The Tragedy of the Missed Opportunity to serve
41 “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. 42
Jumping down to verse 45
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
The difference between those on the left and those on the right, was that one group was led to the proper response to GOD’s blessings by ministering to those in need. The other group closed their eyes to the needs of others and chose to do nothing.
One group was inspired to serve because of their relationship with God. The other group was self centered with hardened hearts towards God and other people.
Tragically today there are some people who identify as Christian that have developed a religion that allows them to be so heavenly minded that they are simply no earthly good. And it’s no secret. One Christian writer recognizing this put it this way in a poem.
“I was hungry, and you formed a humanities club and discussed my hunger.
I was imprisoned and you crept off quietly to your chapel in the cellar and prayed for my release.
I was naked and in your mind you debated the morality of my appearance.
I was sick and you knelt and thanked God for your health
I was homeless and you preached to me about the spiritual shelter of the love of God.
I was lonely and you left me alone so you could pray for me.”
Please know that we don’t always have to do big things on foreign soil in order to serve God. You know building water wells, schools and providing food and health care overseas. Those are all great foreign missions . But here is my point: there may be someone close by, maybe even next door to you who needs to be reminded to take their medications, someone needs to be driven to a doctor's appointment, someone needs food in the house or maybe just needs somebody to sit with them and chat for a little while. It’s not always about going overseas and being blind to, and overlooking the needs right in front of us.
As you prayerfully ask God to give you insight on why and how you can serve HIM… consider
1-God and your own salvation experience
2-Consider how Jesus identifies with the sufferings of humanity.
3-Consider The tragedy of missing the opportunity to Serve God thru serving others.
This is not a story about earning your way into heaven
This is a story about you doing what you do because of who you are in Christ. A story that describes an ethic and practice of love that should be present in the life of the believer.
This is not a story that excludes us from serving others because of their religion, denomination, or ethnicity. We cannot develop theologies and practices that absolve us of our Christian duty.
My grandmother and my mother sang Mahalia Jackson’s:
“If I could help somebody”
If I can help somebody, as I travel along
If I can help somebody, in a word or a song
If I help somebody from doing wrong
No my living shall not be in vain
No, my living shall not be in vain
No, my living shall not be in vain
If I can help somebody, while I’m.singing this song
You know, my living shall not be in vain
And so, to be fully human, bearing the image of Christ as we are created to do, we must reach out beyond ourselves and serve God by and through:
serving others in need,
in this world,
in this life,
in the here and now.