Matthew 25:37-40

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Matthew 25:37-40

When a parent tells their child to take out the garbage or to clean their room, they aren’t inviting a conversation about the nature of garbage or an argument about the organizational standards a child chooses for their own sleeping environment. The parent expects the child to take out the garbage or clean their room. Said expectation is fulfilled when, and only when, the garbage has been taken out or the room is cleaned by said child. Period.

Why ought what seems crystal clear when talking about earthly parents and children seem so cloudy when it comes to what the Bible tells us about the will of God?

Since Jesus is the one telling this story, isn’t it safe to say that feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned is right there at the center of what Jesus would want his people to be about in the world? It is a laundry list of the sort of thing that Jesus did. He set an example. He modeled exemplary behavior. He expects those who follow him to do the same.

The interesting thing is that the “righteous” – those who got it right by aligning their lives to the model of Jesus (Jesus sets the standard for righteousness) – don’t even realize what they did. They are the children who took out the garbage because they saw – just like their parents could – that the garbage was full and needed therefore to be taken out.

I trust every parent has seen that happen. They have returned home from work to smell dinner cooking because a child knew it was going to be dinnertime again that day too. The garbage out because the can was full. The floor vacuumed because it needed it. The room picked up because it had gotten messy. Even without asking. No fuss. No arguments. It is wonderful when that happens. And, in most families, it is rare.

The righteous don’t realize that they have been doing what is right. To them it seems that they have only been doing what is obvious. They are shocked when the king says that “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

The writer of 1 John would later encapsulate this scene with the words, “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” Love, in this passage and in life itself, is not a feeling. It is a decision to be loving. Thus it might look like a meal, access to fresh water, welcoming, rather than rejecting, those who are different, comprehensive immigration reform, access to affordable health care, bringing justice into the criminal justice system.

The king commands us to clean our rooms. Are we willing?

Let us pray: Dear Lord, we live in a world that tells us that might makes right. Again this morning, you remind us that right makes right. That there is a right way to live and it is measured by the care, concern, and justice afforded to the most vulnerable among us. This turns our world upside down. It might even heal it. Guide us to do right today. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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2 Responses to “Matthew 25:37-40”

  1. Dave Armstrong Says:

    Thank you for a much needed reminder about what we should all be about!

  2. garlee931 Says:

    Thanks again for a good message that accompanies the word.

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