This passage shows us very clearly that what we do for other people matters. And it's not a case of just patting ourselves on the back when we do the right thing either. What we don't do matters too. Jesus says that what we do (or fail to do) for other people we do (or fail to do) for him. That in itself should make us take notice. But it's not like we just get a mild reprimand for failing to do the right thing either. Jesus says, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels' (Matthew 25:41). They're pretty strong words. They're not the kind of words that you can pretend just aren't that important.
So does that mean if we fail to sign up for hospital and prison visiting programs and donate money to every single organisation out there that feeds the hungry we're going to hell? Well, no. But at the same time, we also don't get to pretend that we can ignore the plight of other people. When we fail to help people who need help, we fail to help Jesus. And what we do to other people counts.
One thing I don't think Jesus was trying to do was give us a list of people who must be helped - with anyone who falls outside that list able to be ignored. He wasn't saying 'what you do for these people, you do for me'. Rather, he was saying, 'what you do for everyone, you do for me.' So it's not just our treatment of the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick and imprisoned that matters. Our treatment of the depressed, the grieving and the anxious matters. Our treatment of the unemployed, the disabled, the working poor and the socially isolated matters.
And our treatment of people who will be impacted by climate change and environmental degradation matters.
This doesn't just include people in countries like
. It includes people in third
world countries who are already struggling with the effects of climate change.
It includes farmers in our own country who are finding things more difficult
with changing climate conditions. It includes people who are being (or who will
be) impacted by extreme weather conditions, which are predicted to increase as
the climate changes. It includes future generations who have to live in the
world we leave them. And ultimately it includes all of us - for we all will be
impacted by climate change at some time. Tuvalu
We can't just ignore their plight.
doesn't give us that option. What we do (or fail to do) for these people, we
fail (or fail to do) for Jesus. How we treat these people, whether we help them
or not, matters in God's eyes.
Do we want to be the person to whom Jesus says, 'I was suffering from climate change and environmental degradation and you helped me,' or do we want to be the one to whom Jesus says, 'I was suffering from climate change and environmental degradation and not only didn't you help me, but you actually made my situation worse.'
Because that's what we're doing. Not only do we fail to help, we increase the problem. I can't read
Matthew 25:31-46 and
think that Jesus doesn't care.