Jesus describes the Judgment in Matthew 25:31-46. The criteria for separating the saved from the lost in this description is particularly striking—feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, taking in the stranger, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned. Some people lack food, clothing, shelter, and companionship. Other passages in the New Testament teach faith, repentance, confession, and baptism as necessary to salvation. A faithful life of service to the Lord, including proper worship and abstaining from sin, is necessary too. However, in Matthew 25:31-46 the emphasis is how you treat the vulnerable who come to you in need; this determines one’s eternal destiny. That the righteous did these things for marginal characters in their society without expecting a reward from Jesus is evidenced by His description of their apparent surprise and questions on that day, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?” (vv. 37-39). Jesus tells us He will reply to these individuals thus, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (v. 40).
John asks this question, “But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). Our actions do show what is in our hearts. The love of God does not abide in one’s heart if one possesses enough of this world’s goods to share and sees his brother in need of it, yet refuses to give to him. Some run away from the teaching of Matthew 25:31-46 thinking that it teaches works salvation. Certainly no one can merit salvation by good works (Eph. 2:8-9), but God’s intentions for the saved is for them to do good works (Eph. 2:10). In a discussion relating to this subject of faith and works, James asks, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (James 2:15-16).
The apostles had a commitment to remember the poor, and Paul was eager to accomplish this (Gal. 2:10). He and Barnabas delivered funds to the elders for famine relief in Judea (Acts 11:27-30). Paul coordinated a collection effort among multiple congregations to bear a gift to Jerusalem (1 Cor. 16:1-4). This financial help resulted in much thanksgiving (2 Cor. 8-9). That the church takes care of its own is seen early in its history (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-36; 6:1-5). Paul wrote, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). Congregations in the first century helped supply the needs of the saints and shared with all men (2 Cor. 9:12-13). Pure religion includes helping those in trouble, such as widows and orphans, who need the essentials of food, clothing, shelter and companionship (Jas. 1:27). Are you practicing pure religion?