“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. 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, 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.’” Matthew 25:34-36
“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.’” Matthew 25:40
“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.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:45-46
What you are reading is one of the most riveting dialogues recorded in the scriptures. I encourage you to read the larger passage, verses 31-46 of Matthew chapter 25. It snags the listener’s attention and demands an answer to the question, “Have you neglected the needs of your fellow man and in so doing failed to minister to Jesus in His time of need?”
As I advance in maturity, this familiar teaching has taken on a new instruction in my life. It has become my daily initiative these past two weeks to discover where opportunities to bless others lie. Taking inventory at the end of a day and realizing how each day has measured is humbling.
I once believed that all secular service lacked eternal value. I assumed that Heaven only granted entrance to earthly words and deeds which overtly recognized Jesus. I believed that all the jewels in my heavenly crown would be made up of times when I shared the gospel, or wrote an evangelistic letter to a friend, or made a mix tape of Christian music for someone, or wore my pro-Christian t-shirt proudly to school. I was ignorant to think that only gestures directly naming Jesus would live on into eternity.
But here we are gazing through a spyglass into eternity when reading Matthew chapter 25. Look closer at the passage. The services mentioned here are, in fact, secular: a need for food, drink, hospitality, clothing, caregiving, and visitation. And for those disciples of Christ who serve to meet these needs, a kingdom has been prepared.
There is something liberating about the three, simple words, “God is Love.” (I John 4:16) and that is, whatever you do in love, glorifies God. Take advantage of every opportunity to display love, for you never know which deed will earn you a platform in the life of an unbeliever.
“. . . let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16
Matthew 5:16 doesn’t say that they may see your evangelical deeds or hear your evangelistic words, it says, "that they may see your good deeds”. Good deeds glorify the Father without even a mention of His name. Isn’t that motivating?
One recurring opportunity I find comes in the form of support for honorable agendas. Did I say Christian agendas? No, I said honorable agendas. Several people who have never asked for help before have let their need for support of an honorable cause be known. Do I approve of their platform? Yes. Am I proud of their choice to invest themselves in something to benefit the greater good? Yes. Then it is my job to display my support for them and encourage those personal choices. Sometimes that comes in the form of financial contributions, sometimes praise, encouragement and prayer, sometimes hands-on assistance and networking on their behalf. The important thing is to be aware of your circle of influence and quick to respond to the needs which present themselves.
What message will your response send? What message does your lack of a response send? Be deliberate about your message or else an unsavory one may speak for you. We cannot donate a dollar to every cause that lands in our laps, but we can give of ourselves when the request is an opportunity to display love on a direct and personal basis.
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” Luke 6:30
I confess, sometimes opportunities arise followed by a moment of hesitation on my part. Then Jesus whispers, “If I were in need, would you hesitate? If you could bless me with that gift would you keep it for yourself?” My reply is always, “No, Lord. I would not hesitate. I would rather give this to you than keep it for myself.” From that angle, the giving gets easy.
Other frequent opportunities occur where a need is seen but not communicated. This requires consideration and perception. What is going on in the lives of those around you? Are you equipped to alleviate a stress or burden? Think ahead and then act without being prompted. Serve your brother or sister, and in doing so, disclose your awareness of their condition and convey the value you place on them through your service.
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
Do you realize that you are preaching sermons every single day? You are a proponent of every behavior that you participate in and an opponent of every behavior that you do not participate in. Our days are one preaching episode after another.
What worldviews do your actions advocate? Do you build others up with praise or do you speak evil of them? Do you respect authority or do you display a “rules don’t apply to me” attitude? Are you patient with others or do you put yourself first? I am guilty of these violations myself and I want to stop the damage of these subtle, often secret, sins. There is a cost to building a consistent, public image which glorifies the Lord.
“. . . Whatever you did . . . you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
“. . . Whatever you did not do . . . you did not do for me.“ (Matthew 25:45)
Whatever . . .
The messages embedded within our ‘whatevers’ do not fly under God’s radar. If you have ever said, “That’s not my responsibility” or “Let someone else do it”, then rethink that point of view. Jesus says that whatever you do and whatever you don’t do is the same as targeting Him. Pray for wisdom to discern the subliminal sermons you are preaching and sensitivity to be made aware of the needs going unmet in your presence.
The song “I Refuse” by Josh Wilson expresses this message much better than I can. I have attached it here. When the black box pops up, click on the underlined words 'Watch on YouTube'.