April 3 – Matthew 25:31-46
And this isn’t merely money given to a charity or clothes donated to a shelter (though those things are by no means bad). This is “love your neighbor as yourself” at work, a love that flows out of a heart that has been transformed by the love of God and bubbles up into good works like feeding the hungry, clothing the naked (i.e. taking care of the poor), and visiting the sick and those in prison.
Now, like we saw last week, we might get a little cagey talking about good works for fear of implying that salvation is earned by effort rather than received by grace. But we shouldn’t shy away from the conversation, particularly because the Bible is clear on the subject: salvation can’t be earned, it can only be received by grace (Eph. 2:8-9; Gal. 2:15-16; Rom. 3:20). For instance, in Acts 2 a crowd of folks are convicted for having rejected Jesus and ask the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” To this Peter responds, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.”(Acts 2:37-38) Repentance and faith are necessary to partake in the salvation Jesus offers us; merely being kind to those in need is insufficient.
But Jesus doesn’t describe the necessity of charity here at the exclusion of repentance or faith; all three are native to the culture of Jesus’ kingdom and its citizens. That being said, we shouldn’t miss Jesus’ big emphasis here: love and good works are part and parcel of saving faith, an inevitable, characteristic practice of a citizen of Jesus’ Kingdom (see the passage intro from last week for more on the distinction between necessary to and necessary for). Faith without works is dead just as works without faith is dead (James 2:17). If your faith does not produce the kinds of actions that Jesus lists in verses 35-36, and produce the love behind those actions, then your faith doesn’t seem to be operating by the Kingdom principles laid out here.
• What stood out to you in this passage?
• How can this passage help us understand what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven?
• Why do you think Jesus values loving and caring for others so much?
• Look at verse 40—what would it be like to serve others knowing that you are serving Jesus himself?
• When it comes to loving and caring for others, what’s a specific area you know you’ve neglected or you know you need to grow in?
• How can Jesus himself empower us to live according to this passage?