In Matthew 25:31-46 as Jesus was in the last week of his earthly life before the crucifixion, he speaks of His 2nd coming and how he will judge all peoples.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 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” (vv. 31-32).
Jesus goes on to explain that he will put the sheep on his right and they will go onto eternal life and the goats on his left and they will go on to eternal punishment. What is the criterion used to determine whether a person will be judged a “sheep” or a “goat”?
It will be how they treated “the least of these.” Jesus says “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…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (vv.35-36, 40).
Now, at first glance this sounds like our eternal welfare depends on what we do. A salvation based on works? We know, however, from the whole of Scripture that our salvation is based on our faith, faith in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. But what Jesus is explaining here is that (along with James) true faith is always accompanied by righteous works. Works empowered by God’s Holy Spirit.
And who are “the least of these”? The word means “pertaining to being lowest in status, of very little importance, insignificant, trivial”. Unimportant, worthless, dispensable people. You can put in your own examples: homeless, mentally disabled, addicts, etc. Jesus always has a way of showing that the kingdom of God is quite the opposite of the kingdom we are used to living in. The question we must ask then is, “Do we love the least of these?”
That would lead us to another of Jesus’ teaching during his last week of life on earth. A littler earlier in this week Jesus was being approached by the Pharisees to try to trick him and test him. In Matthew 22:34-40 an expert in the law approaches Jesus and asks “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” So Jesus sums up the vast amount of Old Testament teachings in two sentences.
You may also recall a similar answer by another expert in the law when he asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life in Luke 10:25-37. Jesus responds to this question with a question of his own, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?” The man responds with “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus agrees and says “…do this and you will live.” And in a divinely inspired desire to justify himself, the expert asks “And who is my neighbor?” We know the rest of the story of how the least likely of all heroes, a culturally despised Samaritan helps the beaten Jew at the side of the road. He takes care of his “enemy” by showing compassion and mercy. He takes care of and loves his “neighbor.” Again, the kingdom of God is very unlike the kingdom of man.
So the question behind the question is “Do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength, and with all our mind?” If we do, then there will be no question that we will love our neighbor as ourselves and will love “the least of these”.
So what does all of this have to do with missions? We know from Scripture that God desires to be worshiped by people from every nation, tribe, and tongue that he has created and that he will, indeed, be the Eternal King for all those who believe in His son from each nation (Ps 22, 67, 86; Rev 7).
God’s desire is that people from all nations would love Him with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. John Piper has put it this way in his book Let the Nations Be Glad “Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever” (p. 11).
Our love for God drives our desire to see Him lifted up not only in our own lives but in the lives of those around us. We desire to see Him be made famous before the nations as the true and righteous King that He is. Our God, our King, our Savior. He is the beautiful One, full of grace, compassion, and mercy. May more and more people in this world come to know Him and love Him with all their heart, strength, soul, and mind!
Mercy Hill we be sending a mission trip team to Esperanza Viva Youth Home in Puebla, Mexico in August to participate with God in loving “the least of these.”
Esperanza Viva Youth Homes rescue, train, nurture, and rehabilitate underprivileged, orphaned, abandoned, and street children and youth whose families are unable or unwilling to provide for them.
If you’d like to support this team and/or ministry or learn more about it, there will be a fundraising concert on Sunday August 7th from 6-8PM at Mercy Hill Lake Country.