SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
July 31, 2005
We Serve Christ When We Minister to Others in His Name
Key Verse: 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, you did it to me.” – Matthew 25:40
Good works will not save us. We are saved by grace, and grace alone. Good works, however, are evidence that we are saved. Those who refuse to help the least of their brethren may profess to be saved but they are as lost as a golf ball in high weeds.
All the words of Jesus are important. However, his words in today’s lesson have even greater significance because they come near the end of his ministry. As he approached the time of his passion and crucifixion, Jesus spoke about eternal matters. His teaching was not aimed at making his listeners “feel good.” He wasted no time on trivial issues. Instead, he warned the crowd to be prepared for Judgment Day.
Good church people have persuaded many preachers to soft peddle preaching about “hellfire and damnation.” Such preaching is not acceptable because it relies on fear and emotionalism to plead the cause of Christ. Any preacher thus persuaded would be reluctant then to preach on the passage chosen for this lesson.
Why? Because Jesus plainly warns us that on the Day of Judgment we will “go away into eternal punishment” if we have not done what we could to help the poor, the needy, and the helpless among us. Our destiny is horrible to consider for we will hear the king say, “You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Should we not do all we can to avoid such a fate? And should we not urgently warn others to choose the other alternative?
On the other hand, if we have cared about and served the least of our brethren then our reward will be eternal life. Indeed such a reward must be viewed as greater than any other treasure life has to offer. Imagine the incredible joy of hearing the king say, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”! Does not every person on earth deserve to know that such a great blessing is available to all who serve Christ by meeting the needs of the least in our society?
Jesus goes so far as to identify with “the least” of people. They are his brothers and sisters, his family. So if we care about Jesus, we will care about his family. If we neglect any of them, then we have neglected Jesus. If we serve any of them, we have thereby served Jesus. That is so clear as to be frightening!
It scares the best of us because we all know how easy it is to overlook the needy that are right before our eyes. Yet we can become so busy with “church work” that we simply do not “see” them. We can promote our programs so feverishly that we have no time or energy left for the people all around us that need our help. Self-centeredness can become like the blinders on a mule; we see only the row we are plowing and none of the hurting, broken people that are nearby wishing for our assistance.
Shall we make it our business then to care for the needy so that we can go to heaven? No! It is worthless in God’s eyes to do good for the wrong motive. Our good works will result naturally from our love for Christ. When we see a person in need the Christ within us will move us to offer our aid to that person. The need of another will prompt our deeds of love and mercy, not our hope of a heavenly reward.
Observe that the righteous were as surprised as the unrighteous about their eternal reward. This demonstrates that the righteous were not doing good so they could avoid hell and go to heaven. They were merciful because their hearts had been changed by the grace of God. Hearts surrendered to Christ cannot help but be merciful. Mercy is the evidence that the heart is yielded to the Lordship of Christ.
In contrast the unrighteous are surprised to discover that they are accursed because it never occurred to them to be merciful. They lived for themselves so selfishly that they were unaware that others needed help. The needy were invisible to them. They were so occupied with their own desires that they could not hear the cries of their brothers and sisters. Dare we call to mind the words of Jesus: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy”? The unmerciful, then, who feel no need of God’s mercy, will not receive mercy in the judgment. This underscores the need for every person to repent of sin and seek God’s mercy at the throne of grace!
May God remove the scales from our eyes so that we may see Jesus in the faces of the hurting people who are so easily overlooked. Woe unto us if we fail to see and care for them, for the “least” matter to Jesus!
+ + + (Contact Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org)