Although I have always had a heart for those less fortunate than I, in recent times, I have come to feel my need of more personal, hands-on involvement with people who are physically needy. Several things have led me to this place: One is that I have been placed in proximity to many such persons, another is hearing and reading of others’ involvement in such ministry, and finally what has tipped me forcefully into this position has been an illumination of a familiar and crucially important range of scripture. I’m printing the entire portion of Matthew 25:31-46, and I’d like you also to ponder its message.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.”
I look at that scripture today with fresh eyes, and let me confess, I find its reading of a rather frightening nature. In times past when I read and referenced these scriptures, in my own mind, and to others, I emphasized the positive portions, suggesting that it is good that we minister to people, for in so doing we are ministering to God. I still believe that…believe it more strongly than before, but now I am acutely aware of the closing words of Jesus–His warning words– His frightening words.
For unless I am totally missing the mark here, Jesus is saying that if we don’t feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give water to the thirsty, visit sick people, provide homes for the homeless, visit criminals in prison–if we don’t do those things–on judgment day as we stand defenseless before Him, He will say to us, “Depart from me.” And into everlasting punishment we–we who call ourselves Christians–will be cast.
That is a dreadful, frightening thought. For you see, I happen to believe the Word of God and to embrace its edicts and truths, and I do not want to be cast into everlasting torment. So, for me, not only will I continue to teach Bible studies, not only will I share the plan of salvation with those who are searching, not only will I sing and play on Sunday morning, but when I see the hungry, or pass the unclothed, I will share my food and I will clothe my fellow. In so doing, I not only am ministering to Jesus Himself, I am sparing my own soul from hell.