Matthew 25:31a, 32b, 34-42, 45b-46 - [Jesus said] "When the Son of Man comes in His glory ... He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. ... 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. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.' Then He will say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink ... Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'"
This is a truly terrifying parable, at least to me. Jesus is dividing people into those bound for heaven or hell, and it all rests on one question: What did you do to these, the least of My brothers? In short, it rests on what they did.
So ... are we Lutherans wrong? Is it works that matter, after all, and not faith in Jesus? Should we go back to the old idea of earning brownie points with God—so many points for feeding a hungry person, so many points for donating to a homeless shelter?
Look again at the people answering Jesus. The damned are confused at what Jesus says, yes—but so are the saved. They honestly don't remember doing these things. Why?
Probably because for them, these acts flowed naturally from their believing hearts. They saw a hungry person and fed him; they didn't stop to ask, "What should I do now?" or fix it in their memories later, figuring up how much merit they had earned. They just did it. The Holy Spirit living in them did God's works. And so these things happened as naturally and quietly as an apple tree produces apples.
In the same way, the refusal of the condemned comes from their unbelieving hearts. They saw a hungry person and ignored him. Why not? Without the Spirit living in them, they carried on doing what any ordinary self-centered human being does: nothing.
Jesus can judge the nations based on their actions with absolute accuracy, because faith always shows itself in actions. Consciously or not, those who trust in Jesus will grow to behave like Jesus, because His Spirit is living within them. It comes naturally.
WE PRAY: Lord Jesus, let Your Spirit produce good fruit in my life! Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Kari Vo.
1. Do fruit trees work hard to produce fruit? What does that tell you about your own Christian life?
2. When have you seen a Christian quietly do something good, without thinking much about it?
3. Why does it seem easier to remember our sins than our good actions?
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