Matthew 25:31-46 describes a day of judgment, when Jesus will return to sit on His throne and divide the sheep and the goats. He will bless the sheep, the scripture says, but the goats will be sent away into everlasting punishment. The text is very specific. The goats ask, “How did we fail you, Lord?” And He says, “Inasmuch as you did not minister to the least of these, you did not minister to me.”
This scripture is a major motivation to minister to those in the most need, but it can also be confusing. It seems accusatory, as if it says, “Well, if you’re not moved to help, or you don’t want to help, then you are out of God’s grace.” But there are so many Christians that have been baptized. They pray, they’re faithful, and they earnestly seek to understand and do the right thing. Does this description of the Day of Judgment leave them in limbo? Is it unfair?
Or is it a call to action?
I think our confusion about God’s judgment comes from our inability to see what we’re doing as God sees it. It’s very hard to see ourselves as God sees us. Some people think, “I love Jesus so much, but what have I done? I really haven’t done anything.” But it may not look that way from where God sits. He sees that you love Him.
But if you love Him, don’t you want to listen to what He’s asking you to do? If you say, “I’ve been baptized because I love Jesus so much,” then don’t you want to Him to guide you? If you pray all the time, then what are you praying for? That would be my question. A lot of people say, ”Well, I’m praying that I have a close relationship with God.” Right! That’s a good prayer! A lot of us want that.
When I want to have a close relationship with somebody, I follow him, and listen to him, and do things with him. That’s how a close relationship grows. Now, you know I’m definitely going to follow Jesus. In fact, I’m going to chase Him! I’m crazy about Him! I’m going to pay attention to everything He did, so that I can do it with Him.
When you don’t do the work that Jesus did, you’re not following Him. When you’re not doing what He’s doing, you’re not following Him. Prayer alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re following Him.
I think that’s what James was boldly trying to say:
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)
James is not saying that you have to do works in order to get into heaven. He’s saying, “Works will come when you live by the Spirit and listen to Him.” When you live by the Spirit, He’s going to take you for His own. He’s going to listen to you, and He’s going to show you where you can be of help, and be needed. How do we know the Spirit is going to do that? Because that’s what Jesus did! Jesus said, “I didn’t come to help the healthy people. Healthy people don’t need doctors. The sick need doctors.” (Mark 2:17) So what did Jesus do? He did good works! More than we know! Jesus said, “I’m representing the kingdom of heaven. I’m doing what my Father in heaven has asked me to do.”
More on this next time. See you Monday.