‘Don’t you know? When you refused to help one of the least important among these my little ones, my true brothers and sisters, you refused to help and honor me.’ [Matthew 25:45 TPT]

The way we treat people is so important to God.
When we shut up compassion in our hearts we experience consequences.
It does beg the question of why some let compassion flow freely while others damn it up?

To answer I give you two Greek words that speak a bit to the human condition:
  • hamartanĊ :: to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), to err, especially (morally) to sin. [see Romans 3:23 for context] 
  • parabasis :: violation, breaking, transgression. [see Romans 4:15 for context]
These two words represent two aspects of a phenomenon that the bible describes as sin.

The first (hamartanĊ) is one that is somewhat representative of our human nature.
It speaks to the idea that people who have good intentions often make mistakes and err in judgment.
The second word (parabasis) speaks of people with bad intentions who seek to do harm.

And it is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the two.

I believe that Jesus, in this passage, speaks to those who live lives of bad intentions.
Folks who have suppressed compassion in their hearts for so long.
These no longer understand what it means to be truly human.

These are those who do not simply miss the mark.
Jesus' words condemn them as he speaks about their hard and selfish hearts.
Hearts that reject pleas for food, clothing and compassion.

To these he speaks words of rebuke.

Help me Lord to remember how you suffer with the poor, the sick and imprisoned.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

my religious ego

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ [Matthew 25:34-40 ESV]

The first thing that strikes me about this passage is the ignorance of those who Jesus calls blessed.
These who were doing charitable works seemed unaware that they were ministering to Jesus.
Perhaps this sort of ignorance is the hallmark of divine love and compassion?

In contrast, I must admit that I was very aware of why I ministered in prisons.
I did so because I felt commanded to go during the six years that I visited prisons and jails.
In reality, this passage was the only reason I did it.

As I ponder these verses I wonder about about those years and my motives.
Was it all about my religious ego or a concern for hurting inmates.
In hindsight, I think that it was a mix of the two.

When I think about the people described in this passage I think about Jesus.
The gospels report that Jesus was moved by compassion when he saw hurting people.
In like manner these, who Jesus call blessed, also seem to be moved by compassion.

These sorts of people help strangers who are hungry, thirsty, sick and behind bars.
Often ministering to such people engages a part of us that has so little to do with compassion.
Yet sometimes compassion arises in us and we touch hurting people.

In doing so we minister to Jesus.

Examine me Lord. Drive ungodly motives from me and fill my heart with compassion.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

from a throne of splendor

When the Son of Man appears in his majestic glory, with all his angels by his side, he will take his seat on his throne of splendor, and all the nations will be gathered together before him. And like a shepherd who separates the sheep from the goats, he will separate all the people. [Matthew 25:31-32 TPT]

This is the prelude to the famous illustration of the separation of the sheep and the goats.
Before jumping into the judgment scene I thought that it would be helpful to make a few observations.
  • The words glory and splendor sets the scene. When I read those words I remember that I have no context, no timeframe and no words to understand this passage.
  • When I read the word "all" I am overwhelmed. All the angels will be there. All peoples of all times will be there. I cannot get my head around that number.
  • Humankind will be separated. It leaves me speechless. I want this to be a time when peoples are reunited not a time when they are divided.
I am comforted by the idea that a shepherd will separate the sheep and the goats.
It reminds me of how Jesus speaks of the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.
Such is the qualification to sit on this throne of splendor.

He who laid down his life now sits in judgment.

Lord, you are my Shepherd. Help me to follow you like a lamb.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

spiritual investing

Once there was a man who was about to leave home on a trip; he called his servants and put them in charge of his property. He gave to each one according to his ability ... After a long time the master of those servants came back and settled accounts with them. [Matthew 25:14-15,19 NCV]

Jesus speaks of three different ways that people deal with life and money.

To the first servant who doubled the master's investment he says:
‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’ 
To the second servant who also doubled the master's investment he says:
‘Well done, you good and faithful servant!’ said his master. ‘You have been faithful in managing small amounts, so I will put you in charge of large amounts. Come on in and share my happiness!’
To the last servant who buried the masters money he says:
‘You bad and lazy servant!’ ... you should have deposited my money in the bank, and I would have received it all back with interest when I returned.
I sometimes think that faithfulness is the currency of the kingdom.
We grow spiritually when we are faithful with the things God has invested in us.
This parable indicates that, today and in our last hour, this quality is so very important.

When I think about abilities I remember how unique each one of us is.
Interesting that the master invested commensurate with each servants ability.
It speaks to me of how God considers our ability when he invests in us.

I find it compelling that Jesus equates faithfulness to hard work.
The first two servants doubled what they were given because of their their work ethic.
In reality, the last one was really not a servant because he was lazy.

The response of the Master to his servants when he returns is so telling and instructive.
It reminds me that what we do in this life is important - to God and to us.
And it speaks of how we are accountable to him and to each other.

Thank you for the spiritual investments that you have made in me Lord.
Forgive me for the many times I have squandered those gifts.
Help me to be faithful with the things that you have entrusted me with.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.