Jesus says this parable when talking about His return in glory to set up His kingdom (verse 31). He says that all those on earth at that time will be brought before Him, and be separated into two categories: “he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left” (verses 32-33). My brother, my sister, where would you like to sit when Jesus returns: on His right or on His left?
On the one hand, the sheep on Jesus’ right hand are blessed by God the Father and given an inheritance. The reason for that is given: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was ill and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me” (verses 35-36). In other words, whenever we do good to others, it is to Jesus Himself we are doing it: “The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (verse 40).
On the other, the goats will be on Jesus’ left hand as they cursed and “prepared for the devil and his angels” (verse 41). The reason for that is given: they had the opportunity to minister to the Lord, but they did nothing (verses 42-43). The damned will ask because the damned always have something to say even they should remain quiet: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (verse 44). Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (verse 45).
Now, let’s clarify that this parable is presenting the redeemed and saved man versus the condemned and lost man. And it is certainly not suggesting that salvation is the result of good works, though the “sheep” acted charitably, giving food, drink, and clothing to the needy while the “goats” showed no charity. We know that the Word of God does not contradict itself, and the Bible clearly and repeatedly teaches that salvation is by faith through the grace of God and not by our good works and Jesus said our inheritance was offered to us “since the creation of the world” (Matthew 25:34), long before we could ever do any good works anyway! So, what we should understand here is that the good works mentioned in this parable are not the CAUSE of our salvation but the EFFECT of our salvation, because as Christians we become like Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and we should develop the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22)… and those fruit necessarily urge us to do good works that are acceptable to God (Ephesians 2:10).
So, looking at our individual lives, my friends, we should always wonder where we are heading to and where we want to sit when Jesus returns. The choice is ours! Stay blessed in Jesus’ name.