Serving Christ by Serving Others

Key Verse: “The King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
—Matthew 25:40

Selected Scripture:
Matthew 25:31-45

TODAY’S LESSON IS JESUS’ parable of ‘the sheep and the goats.’ The specific time setting for the fulfillment of this parable is at the close of Christ’s thousand-year kingdom, when judgment shall be rendered concerning each individual’s worthiness to live eternally on the earth and enjoy the boundless blessings of God’s goodness. However, the principles of Christian living and conduct contained in the parable are applicable in all ages and to all people. We want to focus on these principles in the current lesson.

The parable portrays two groups of people, one likened to sheep and the other to goats. A king, who is given the responsibility of judging these two classes, places the sheep on his right hand, representing favor, and the goats on his left hand, representing disfavor. The sheep, he says, inherit a kingdom (Matt. 25:34), but the goats he sends away to destruction. (vs. 41) Jesus gives the reason for the clear distinction between the sheep and goats. He says concerning the sheep, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” (vss. 35,36) To the goats he says just the opposite. They did not give him meat, drink, nor did they take him in, clothe him, or visit him when sick or in prison.—vss. 42,43

It is interesting that in the parable both the sheep as well as the goats respond to the king’s statements by asking how they did, or did not do, these things. (vss. 37-39,44) They never had personal access to the king and thus never had any opportunity to do these things personally for him. The king, in the parable, represents Jesus. He only lived on earth for a little more than thirty-three years, and so we might ask the same question. If we are like the sheep we might say, “How could I be credited as serving him?” or, if like the goats, “How could I be expected to serve him?” since in neither case have we actually had the opportunity to serve him personally.

Jesus gave both the sheep and the goats, and us, the answer to these questions. He says to the sheep, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (vs. 40) Contrariwise to the goats, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” (vs. 45) In this answer Jesus gives us the primary lesson of the parable. We cannot serve him personally because he is not here for us to physically do so. However, we can, and must, serve him by serving one another. As we look for and use opportunities to serve one another, we are counted as doing it unto him, just as if he were the one receiving our service. On the contrary, if we neglect the privileges of doing things for one another, we are reckoned as having also neglected him, and will not be found worthy to be on his right hand. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”—John 15:12

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