Read: Matthew 25:31-46
Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you? (v. 44)
Surprise, surprise—everyone is surprised. The sheep are surprised. They did not know they were being compassionate. They had no inkling that the king might be present among “the least of these.” There was no thought of potential reward. They were just doing what, to them, seemed natural. Good fruit comes from good trees. “When did we see you hungry and feed you . . . ?” They are genuinely surprised.
The goats are surprised. They did not realize that they had been oblivious to human suffering. Their “when did we see you hungry . . . ?” implies that, had they only known of the king’s presence among “the least of these,” they would have acted appropriately. They are genuinely surprised.
What a troubling, disconcerting parable. Is Jesus saying that we have to earn our ticket to heaven by doing good deeds? No. The righteous do not earn the kingdom. They inherit it. Inheritance is determined by the giver, not the recipient. Salvation is a gift to be received, not a reward to be achieved. You are going to heaven, not because you are good, but because God is. We live a life of righteousness and compassion, not because we are trying to earn God’s love, but because we are grateful that we already have God’s love.
“When did we see you . . . ?” The parable reminds us that the Son of Man is not merely coming. He is already here. —Lou Lotz
Prayer: Lord, give me the eyes to recognize you in “the least of these.”