The Super Bowl is in a few days, as if most of you need to be reminded. Two young men playing in the game for the Denver Broncos started out life in rugged and rough circumstances, and it is a wonder they made it to this point in their lives. Demaryius Thomas, a star receiver, and Knowshon Moreno, a star runner, were raised by others rather than their own father and mother. Demaryius’ mother and grandmother are in prison; his mother for 20 years and his grandma 40 to life. They were taken out of his life at age 11, when just before they were arrested the young boy begged his mother to stop selling drugs out of their home. After bouncing around from one unsuitable situation to another, he was taken in by his aunt and uncle who gave him love, structure, and took him to church where his uncle would preach. They loved him and taught him a work ethic from the first day. Knowshon was raised by his grandmother, a woman of faith, after spending an early life with his father, in and out of homeless shelters, until she asked the courts and received custody; she then was able to provide a home, love, and structure for Knowshon with help from others, like coaches, who were like a father to him along the way.
Both these young men received the hands-on love, kindness and action described by our Lord in the account of the sheep and the goats at the end of Matthew 25. Jesus concludes his parables in Matthew 24 and 25 in which he fixes in the minds of his hearers the preeminent necessity of being ready for his return, with this picture of the great white-throned judgment awaiting “all the nations (all humanity) after his return. What strikes the reader about Jesus’ means of discernment to separate the sheep from the goats, from his disciples on his right, and those who refused to hear and act on his words on his left, was that the action of obedience was hands-on; it was personally done, not by a surrogate or somehow removed from the personal engagement characterizing those who were the sheep on his right.
Many have contrived to make the words of Jesus refer strictly to care for the physically poor, since the apparent references are to the lack of physical necessities such as food, drink, welcome, clothing, health, and freedom. The careful reader of the Book of Matthew will remember the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, as well as the whole context of the gospels where Jesus puts preeminence on spiritual poverty over physical poverty, though spiritual poverty describes all stations in life; the physically poor are certainly included because they suffer in spiritual poverty as the non-poor do; still, Jesus said, “It is harder for a rich man to enter heaven than to pass through the eye of a needle. Nevertheless, Jesus “fed Nicodemus every bit as much as healing the poor leper who came to Him to be made “clean.
The point of Jesus’ disclosure of the global dividing of humanity before the Great Judgment Throne is that his true disciples were those who had been engaged in personally obeying his commandments, doing it with their own hands, lips, eyes, heart, strength, soul, and mind. Following Jesus means personal engagement.
The means by which some have sought “to care for the poor in our day and age and to possibly assuage the guilt of seeing the poor live so poorly in our society, is to legislate resources (taxes) of others while keeping at a personal distance; creating dependency, rather than transformation. These “big-government-solves-all-ills ideologues seldom are known for personal generosity of their own resources, much less their personal engagement in carrying out Christ’s commands. As the Scripture says,“Blessed is the man who wisely considers the poor man’s case. Thomas Chalmers, a godly saint and leader of the evangelical church in Scotland during the industrial revolution of the 1800s, engaged believers in his parish in urban Glasgow in ministering to the poor in that city. He did not abide those who had resources merely giving offerings to assist the poor. He insisted they give of their time in personal encouragement, instruction, mentoring, and evangelizing the poor who were suffering due to impoverishment. Thus a genuine obedience to Christ’s commands as he describes here and elsewhere was entered into; and the reward was greater joy.
The believer is to engage his whole person, not just his physical resources (those too) in following Jesus’ command to feed, clothe, befriend, visit, encourage, come alongside the spiritually poor, and win them into the Kingdom. It may involve ministry in the slums of the world, on Wall Street, the university campus, a youth home like PAYH, the halls of government, or to your own neighbor. This is the imprimatur of the sheep on the right of the throne. The global divide here of sheep and goats is eternal; only the sheep and goats Jesus has in view are the men and women you live among on this globe, including you.
Sign up for our monthly newsletter and weekly devotional