The Lord Jesus, in speaking of the judgment to come, speaks of his children, the righteous, the ones to be rewarded, as those who have had an inheritance prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Jesus is also clear that these are people whose lives have been marked by certain identifying behaviors. And among those behaviors, especially important for us at this time, is the simple truth that Christians are marked by their kindness and helpfulness to one another.
Matthew 25:34-40 – 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who 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 drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Jesus points out that the righteous, those who are rewarded, are people who treated him with several particular kindnesses. But the faithful are surprised. They did not remember doing such things for Jesus. Jesus says that, as they did such good things for the least of these my brothers, they did so for Jesus himself.
Do take note here that the saved are receiving an inheritance here, we are not earning our salvation. Note that this inheritance was prepared from the foundation of the world, meaning that God foreordained our salvation. And note that the kindnesses mentioned here are, well, just plain ordinary love. Feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is simple kindness. But this simple kindness is an identifying marker on the lives of those who love Jesus.
Who is the primary focus of our efforts of kindness? The most biblical understanding of this text is that doing kindness to other followers of the Lord Jesus is akin to doing kindness to the Savior himself. This is not to say that we ought not also do kind things for all people in the world. But the best way to understand this text is to see that the Savior equates love for other Christians as love for him.
Who does Jesus refer to as his family?
Matthew 12:46–50 – 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus says that the one who does his Father’s will is his family.
When Jesus confronted Saul of Tarsus, later the apostle Paul, do you remember what Jesus said about Saul’s persecuting of Christians?
Acts 9:4–5 – 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Saul was persecuting Christians, yet Jesus equated that with persecuting him. Similarly, Jesus shows us in Matthew 25 that doing kindness for believers is to do kindness to Jesus.
John 13:34–35 – 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Galatians 6:10 – So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
Please do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that the word of God calls us not to do kindness to all in need. We surely display the glory of God when we do things that help others. After all, all human beings are created in the image of God. But, the first priority of the follower of Jesus is to honor Jesus by doing good, especially to those who are a part of the body of Christ.
Those who are genuinely Christians, then, will have lives that are marked by acts of kindness toward the people of God. Those kind acts will not save us. But a genuine salvation always leads to genuine obedience to the commands of God. And such obedience will come so naturally to the one who loves the Lord and who loves their local church that we will look to the Lord and be surprised that what we did actually mattered. We will think that our kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ was such a normal thing that it should not earn for us a reward.
Today, Christians, we are in a world that is full of need and fear. We need to be people whose lives are marked by ordinary kindness. Hording and hiding will not look like the people who are the children of God. And that is especially true of we are not caring for those we call brothers and sisters in Christ. So, stop and think. Reach out to your church members. Reach out to younger and older believers. Find out if those in your fellowship have what they need in this time.
Yes, be kind as well in how you behave. Do not needlessly put others at risk. Do not spread a disease that may not threaten your life, but which could threaten those more vulnerable. Love others well. Love others simply. Love others and see that the Lord Jesus will say to you that loving his brothers is loving him.