I read Matthew 25:31-46 this morning. It's the story Jesus told about the sheep and the goats. Every time I read this, I think of the song sung by Keith Green.
The first time I ever heard of Keith Green, I was heading back to the dorm after a weekend retreat in college. This song came on the radio. I was mesmerized, trying to figure out who was singing this song with such passion and conviction. But part of me also recoiled. These words were way too convicting. I had no doubts about whether or not I was a Christian, but I also knew that according to this song, and more importantly, according to this scripture, I really didn't do any of these things to the least of my brothers. I thought I was a sheep, but was I acting like a goat?
Keith also puts a line at the end of the song that I've always felt was incomplete. He says:
"And my friends, the only difference between the sheep and the goats, according to this scripture, is what they did and didn't...DO!"
Yikes. This sounds likes you can earn heaven. I know Keith didn't believe that, and I don't believe that because scripture doesn't teach that. These deeds mentioned here are the evidences of salvation. If you are really saved, you will do the kind of things Jesus talks about here. Maybe I can let myself off the hook a bit by saying these deeds are just representative of all the good we Christians should be doing. I don't think that really flies, though. When you look at this list, the needs listed here couldn't be any more basic.
So what do I do with this? Ray Leininger, in a sermon he preached recently at the Esquire, mentioned the homeless people who hold the signs asking for help at I-44 and Kansas Expressway. One thing he suggested was as simple as keeping a dollar bill handy in the car to give to them. Is that small? insignificant? wasteful? not really solving anything? Maybe, on one level. But on my soul level, it's a baby step to heightened awareness to some basic needs of others that I, for the most part, have left to other people or ministries. I'm not dismissing the fact that our check book has, at times, been used to help others. I'm just wondering if our hands need to be used a little more. Looking at someone in the eyes, hearing their voice, possibly touching their fingers as I hand them a bill (serve them a meal, visit them in prison) makes "the least of these" breathe in a way that just writing a check to help them never will. And who knows where a baby step of obedience might lead? Hopefully, to the right.