Jesus said many profound and life-changing things in his life as recorded in Scripture. What he says in Matthew 25:31-46 for me is becoming for me one of the most life-altering and mind-blowing.
Jesus gives us an awesome picture of the great Day of Judgment when He will appear in all his glory with all the angels with all people who have ever lived gathered before him. (To give some perspective, as of 2002 one guesstimate is that would be about 106,456,367,669 people gathered).
It is in this moment that Jesus says he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. The sheep will enter the kingdom of heaven and the goats the fires of hell.
The sheep are those who cared for the poor and needy.
The goats neglected to care for the poor and needy.
What makes this profound for me is Jesus explanation of this. He says to the sheep,
“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. Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (25:35-40)
To the goats:
“For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me. Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (25:42-45)
So, what we do for the “least of these” – the poor, the hungry, the needy, the strangers, the sick, we do to Jesus. The extent to which we neglect the needy, we neglect Jesus Himself. This causes me to pause. To worship and be amazed that we have the opportunity to touch and minister and serve Jesus. It also causes me to repent for where I have walked by, ignored, and left Jesus starving, naked and alone.
I believe the fatherless are included in “the least of these.” In fact, I think the fatherless of our world might just be the very least of all as they are the most dependant of anyone for food, drink, clothing, love, medical care. The very things a family provides and the very thing they are without. Therefore, according to Jesus every time we adopt an orphan we are “welcoming a stranger” but more than that we are “adopting Jesus.” Every time a church encourages a family in their adoption they are taking part in “adopting Jesus.” I have just begun to see adoption in this way and it changes everything! In adoption, there is a sense in which we are Christ to the orphan but amazingly the orphan is Christ to us. In the end, the way we treat the poor and needy and orphans of our world tells us something of our relationship with Jesus, and our eternal destiny. It is an act of worship or judgment.