Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Matthew 25:31-40 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
The Judgment of the Nations
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. 34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ 37 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? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ 40 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,[a] you did it to me.’
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
There are controversial parts of the Bible, there are unclear parts of scripture, there are passages that are difficult to understand. But, this one is clear—as clear as Jesus’ words about how we treat the poor. Jesus was clear that risk-taking ministry and service are at the heart of what it means to be a follower of his and what it means to be the Church—the Body of Christ. God’s concern for the hungry, the poor, the homeless, those without clothing to wear and clean water to drink could not be clearer!
Jesus said, “… you will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
What we do matters in terms of real change and in the witness we make.
In Jesus’ Parable of the Last Judgment, everyone is surprised, whether the righteous or the unrighteous. The Lord, seated on the throne as king, addresses the righteous (who are gathered at his right hand): “Come, you that 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 something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” The righteous are surprised: “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 answers: “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.”
Then, he addresses the unrighteous (gathered at his left hand): “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then, the unrighteous also answer him: “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of you?” And the king answers: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Notice that everyone is surprised: “Lord, when did we see you?”
The righteous had spent a lifetime caring for people, responding to the needs of others, just helping and caring in mundane, routine ways—doing what they knew was right and they were surprised to learn that the Lord himself was the recipient of their kindness and acts of mercy. The unrighteous had spent a lifetime largely ignoring and generally not caring about others. The big surprise for the unrighteous is that the call to be God’s people is the call to live beyond legalism, beyond a list of what not to do to a lifestyle that not only avoids doing certain things, but acts positively to help alleviate suffering, to reach out to those in need‑‑to do to others even the simplest kindness, like giving food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, welcoming a stranger, giving clothes to one who is without, visiting and caring for one who is ill or in prison.
The surprise for everyone is that Jesus so identifies with humans in need that when we do something for a brother or sister who is in need or when we do not do something for one in need, we do it or fail to do it to the Lord himself. It is really that simple. Coming near the end of the gospel as it does, Matthew uses this parable as a kind of summary of what is most important. Here we learn in a very plain parable what it means when we talk about justice, the kingdom of God, loving your neighbor, and following Jesus. It is so simple to start with and then Jesus gives us the list 4 times in just 10 verses. At the heart of it, it’s all about
Giving food to the hungry.
Giving water to the thirsty.
Welcoming the stranger.
Clothing the naked.
Caring for the sick.
Visiting those in prison.
It’s so simple! Where else in the Bible do you see something repeated four times in 10 verses? It is as though Jesus is saying, “This is so important, I’m going to say it again! What God wants from us is essential kindness, love of neighbor. What the righteousness, the justice of God is about is helping people who are in need.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster