The Difference Between Sheep and Goats (Matt 25:31-46)

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of 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 took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46 And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46, NKJV).

This text from the final days of Jesus has been used to teach many doctrines: the second coming, the final judgment, and the reality of heaven and hell. Yet, the key take-home point can get lost in the shuffle as we try to use this text to establish those doctrines. The point: one day we will stand before “the King” and one key judgment factor will be what we did or failed to do in service to others who needed our individual help. This is a text encouraging a generous, servant- filled spirit towards our “brethren.” It is a text rebuking the sin of neglect towards those in need. In the judgment of all nations, the difference between sheep and goats is essentially that some are doers and others are do-nothing’s.

So, what is your reaction when you have the opportunity to hand food to a hungry person? What is your response when a thirsty worker needs a glass of water to drink? Are you first to spring to action when the opportunity presents itself to have a guest in town into your home? Would you take a poor individual or family shopping if they did not have proper clothes for the weather? Would you consider writing a lonely prisoner a burden or an opportunity to encourage and reform? Are you a person of action or inaction? Your answers to these questions will tell Jesus one day whether you are a sheep or a goat.