Matthew 25:31-46 is a worthy passage for reflection and thought. In this passage, Jesus describes the moment when He will return to establish His Kingdom here on Earth. Upon His arrival, “He will sit on his glorious throne” and “Before Him will be gathered all the nations” (25:32). In this moment, every eye will see Him, and every person will be obligated to stand before His presence. He’s going to bring everyone into account for the lives they have lived (Romans 2:6-8).
When He arrives, the King has some work lined up. He plans to separate those who come before Him. On His right will stand believers (the sheep), and on His left, unbelievers (the goats). The believers shall be welcomed by the King and invited into His Kingdom. Unbelievers will be cursed and condemned into everlasting torment.
What’s the determining factor? How does the King decide who will enter His Kingdom and who will not? Their works (25:35-46). The sheep are commended and blessed because they fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned. The goats, however, are cursed because they didn’t do these things. In the end, their manner of life determined their destiny.
Now, let’s be clear. Right standing with God (justification) is by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). It is not a “result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph. 2:9). But, if this is the case, then why does Jesus make it very clear that entrance into the Kingdom is based on whether you have engaged in good works, such as assisting the needy? He almost seems to imply that you have to earn your way into His Kingdom.
But, Jesus does not mean that at all. He is not teaching that you have to earn your salvation. So, why does His judgment seem to depend on what the people did? It’s simple, your treatment of others reveals your heart.
The sheep have saving faith in Christ, and they expressed their faith through good works. Conversely, the goats didn’t have faith in Christ, and they showed this by their lack of love and concern for those in need. This is because genuine believers have transformed hearts, renewed by the Holy Spirit and unbelievers do not.
One of the top-tier evidences that you have received a new heart leading to saving faith is that you demonstrate love towards those in need. It’s feeding the hungry. It’s giving water to those who thirst. It’s clothing the naked. It’s comforting the afflicted. Christians have been radically changed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the proof of their salvation is a life committed to serving other people, particularly the needy and helpless.
If you follow Jesus, I hope, to some extent, this describes you. We cannot live for ourselves. We must live sacrificially for Christ’s glory and the good of others. We must be willing to give ourselves to Jesus and be His servants. We cannot reduce our Christianity to mere church attendance and nothing else. If that describes you, then you’re missing the point.
If you look down on people and judge them as those who deserve hardship because they’ve made poor choices, you’re probably a goat, not a sheep. Sheep extend the love they’ve received. Goats self-righteously hoard all the goodness God has bestowed upon them.
So, which are you: a sheep or a goat? Where will you be when Jesus returns, on the right or the left? Look at how you treat the lowly and needy. There you will find your answer.
- What does the treatment of others reveal about your heart?
- How can you extend the love you have received from God to others in your life?
This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.