The parable begins with another reminder that someday an account will have to be given for what we have done while here on the planet. As we will see, the issue is not only WHAT we have done but WHO we have done it for.
The scene is the Throne Room of God and the occasion is the Judgement. God separates mankind into two categories: sheep and goats. And though we know that salvation is through faith alone, this particular judgment is carried out according to what the two sectors did while on earth.
“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. 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, 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’” —Matthew 25:34-36.
To be true to the context of Scripture, we have to say that this passage is not a commentary on salvation but a commentary on the results of salvation. How do you know who the sheep are? Jesus said that if we loved Him, we would obey Him, follow Him (John 14:15). And there was no one more concerned about the welfare of men than Jesus. He set an example during His lifetime that He expected others to follow (Luke 9:23; John 12:26). The Lord lived out the commands of the Old Testament to look after the orphan, the widow, and the stranger. To do the same was expected of His followers and was, in fact, a sign of true discipleship.
In the parable, the “sheep,” called “the righteous” (vs. 37) were puzzled. They knew that they had done all these things for men, but how had their actions affected God? Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (vs. 40).
I find this interesting. The righteous did all these things, not because somewhere in the back of their mind was the thought, “I gotta do this for God” but because it was a natural part of their divinely-infused nature. There was no concept of earning brownie points with God, but rather simply doing what came from the heart.
In the Old Testament, God tells the prophet Ezekiel, speaking of the change He would make when His rebellious children returned to Him: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 11:19, 20).
How do you know who the sheep are? Only God knows the heart, can judge the motives, Our concern needs to be with ourselves, but it’s a pretty good bet that we are on the right track to recognizing that "new heart" if spontaneous, unselfish, disinterested charity is extended to those who most need it.
Many years ago a popular song contained the words, “act naturally.” We know we’re among the sheep when our charity flows spontaneously out of our nature—the new one that God gave us when we accepted Christ,