31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.
32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
34 “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.
35 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,
36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?
38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?
39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,
43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:31-46, NIV).
The other day, I was driving along, thinking about this passage, and it hit me. The difference between the sheep and the goats, is that the sheep saw people in need, and extended grace to them without judgement. They saw the hungry, and instead of making them earn it or turning away because they should have had a job, they gave them food. If someone needed somewhere to stay, they helped. They didn’t judge, they loved. They were instruments of grace to people who needed it. Why would someone SEE someone hungry, or a stranger stranded and homeless or lonely, or in need of clothes, and not help them? Gracelessness! Gracelessness would say, “I worked hard for what I have, why should I help this person who is lazy and addicted to harmful things? If I help them it will just encourage them to go on being dysfunctional. It is best if they learn to accept the consequences of their actions.”
I think we would all agree that it is fortunate that the savior doesn’t work this way! The kingdom of God is a kingdom of grace, and those who do not choose grace remain under a graceless and judgmental regime.
The true fruit of imputed righteousness, is the thankful heart that forgives as it has been forgiven, that give the benefit of the doubt, That helps because it has been helped.
I think it’s important that BOTH sheep and goats were UNAWARE of having helped Jesus. They were doing what they did based on. It would seem that they were not conciously alert to have helped ANYONE. In the sheep’s case, it was no big deal, just doing life, “Oh we didn’t really do anything, it was nothing, just helped people in need. But I don’t remember you. I’d never forget THAT face.” In the goat’s case it was, I believe, ‘Hmm… well I don’t really remember seeing anybody with a need.’