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, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me. ~Matthew 25:35-36 ESV
These words of Christ have “haunted” me for years, particularly since this statement is later contrasted with His declaration to those who did not do these things (it’s not a happy thing, btw).
And sometimes, I write to get the thoughts out of my head.
I know there is a practical application here. John the Baptist addressed it when he instructed the repentant among his audience to share their possessions and food; and to act in an honest and just manner while engaging in business and other public duties (Luke 3:10-14).
John (the beloved disciple) also wrote of the importance of acting in love rather than just talking about it. James also reminded readers of the necessity of living in a compassionate manner.
“But if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:17-18 ESV).
Helping others in a practical way is certainly good thing.
However, in the greater context of scripture, there is deeper significance to what Jesus was saying. As always, He hit straight at the “heart” of the matter, regarding the motivation for doing such things. In fact, every material humanitarian effort He listed in Matthew 25 has a spiritual parallel that can be located elsewhere in scripture.
1. Food for the hungry: (Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD ~Deuteronomy 8:3; “I am the Bread of Life” ~ Jesus. John 6:36-51)
2. Drink for the thirsty: (Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinkis of the Water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The Water that I will give him will become in him a spring of Water welling up to eternal life.” ~ John 4:13-14 ESV)
3. Welcome the stranger (Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels (messengers of God) unawares.~ Hebrews 13:2 ESV)
4. Clothing the naked: Clothing, in scripture often represents righteousness before God. Or it depicts the glory of an honored position. Our need for physical covering reminds us that we must have a reliable way for our own unrighteousness to be seen by Him. When God had to send Adam and Eve from the Garden, His parting gift to them was clothing made from animal skins (Genesis 3). It was a reminder to them (and us) that God Himself would provide covering for their shame.
Ironically, we read in Luke 23:34 of both God’s covering love and the casting of lots for the earthly clothing of Christ, who hung naked and exposed during His crucifixion. (And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they known not what they do. And they cast lots to divide His garments. ~ Luke 23:34 ESV)
(See also “ Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends”. Proverbs 17:9 ESV; “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins” 1 Peter 4:8)
5. Visit the sick: Those who do not know God are sick in their hearts. Even if they do not know it.
6. Go to the Prisoners: This is a difficult one to address, as I do not intend to belittle prison ministry in any way. But I want to highlight the fact that not all prisoners are locked away. In fact, there are far more individuals walking free who are literal prisoners to emotional disorders, various addictions, abusive relationships, compulsions to self-harm etc… Their souls are truly existing in a state of “hell” and they cannot find a way out on their own. And Jesus wants us to notice and go to them in love, praying that God will release them from their bondage, rather than stand back and judge them for not performing better. If His Life is flowing out of you like water, you will not be “contaminated” by these people. Just as Jesus was not contaminated by touching ceremonially unclean people in NT accounts. (“And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” ~ Jude 1:22-23 ESV)
The criteria for judgment in Matthew 25 is not “how many wonderful humanitarian works did you do?”
The measurement is whether such things were done “in Christ’s name”, with the intent to share hope for healing, given out of love for the soul of the other individual.
*Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)*
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
*1 Timothy 6:17-19 (ESV)*
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
Have you ever considered that when professing believers bicker, gossip, hold grudges and generally refuse to work together that we are directly opposing Jesus’ John 17 prayer that His family live together in unity?
Exodus 3:14-15 (NKJV)
And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’.”
Moreover God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God or Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever and this is My memorial to all generations.”
I Am. The Self-existent One of the ancient Hebrew texts has revealed Himself to us through the Man, Jesus of Nazareth.
John 18:4-6 (NKJV) Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?”
They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him, also stood with them.
Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
Mark 14:61-62 (NKJV) But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Revelation 1:12-18 (NKJV)
Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.
His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire;
His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters;
He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
“I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.
*Luke 12:1-5 (ESV)*
In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.
But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!
I believe this passage is pretty self-explanatory, but do think it is important to recognize that Jesus spoke of the “leaven of the Pharisees” as their continually self-perpetuating, infections sin… of hypocrisy.
Basically, this indicates that they were engaged in play-acting. And in particular, the warning was related to their religious activity and true attitude toward God.
However, Jesus also promised that there will come a time when every dusty corner of our hearts will be emptied of all secrets. Therefore, it is beneficial for us to develop a genuine respect the God who will judge rightly all we have ever said, done and even though.
*Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)*
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
*Isaiah 44:3 (ESV)*
For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.
*John 4:13-14 (ESV)*
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
*Revelation 22:17 (ESV)*
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
Just as alcoholic beverages will affect our mental and physical processes, so does the essential “water” which comes by the Holy Spirit affect our spiritual perception and endurance.
Not every spirit is of God, though.
*1 John 4:1-4 (ESV)*
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.