This week’s money and stewardship devotional from the four Gospels* is about the eternal significance of financial acts of righteous believers, from Matthew 25:31-46.
25 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 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.’ 41 Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ 44 They also will answer, ‘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?’ 45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ 46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Who are the ‘righteous?’ Are the righteous those that obey the rules and don’t break the commandments? Are we acting righteous when we don’t steal, when we pay our taxes and tithe, and when we are Godly stewards with our finances? Are the righteous those who confess Jesus as their savior and read their Bible daily and go to church every weekend ? Is that how you spot the financially righteous?
Who are Jesus’ people? They are those who have been saved and made righteous by Christ as seen in 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. However, some of us evangelical Christians do a masterful job, with surgical precision, when we use our razor sharp instruments to separate the act of Jesus’ sacrifice to save us from works of righteousness. It seems, though, in scripture, acts of righteousness are the other side of the coin: you can’t separate the two and still have something of value. When we use our scalpel and start dividing what is good and what isn’t in our walk with Jesus, we often keep the part that causes us little discomfort and pain–that has financial cost.
When you read the words Jesus spoke in the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you will not find a lot of rules or new commandments to follow. What you will find is Jesus encouraging us to love our neighbors and our enemies with as much fervor as we love ourselves. Jesus mentions quite frequently what Kingdom living looks like, and that we would suffer and have troubles. Jesus doesn’t show us how to live a life of financial comfort, but how to live one that helps others live theirs.
It seems to me, as I write this morning, that the righteous people are those that put a higher priority on others’ comfort and problem resolutions than on their own. In the verses above, Jesus acknowledges that many people are lonely and going without food, water, friends, visitors in prison and hospitals, and clothing. Christians are really good at helping with this, because you have compassion for others; you care about the things Jesus cares about. This has been true for centuries; I can think of many hospitals started by Christians, but I can’t recall any started by Atheist organizations. Christians start and work food pantries and many other charities the world over. Christians visit and pray with those in hospitals and prisons. Christian lawyers and change agents fight for people in poverty. Christian believers donate their money to organizations that feed, house and help the poor. Thousands of Christians have started colleges and business, providing jobs and education for those that need them. This is what Jesus’ people do. We do without things we want to buy for ourselves because we are righteous; our goals are not for ourselves, but for others, and for Him, for he says when we do this, we are doing it for Him. Lastly, these acts of righteousness are so important that they have eternal consequences: for the Kingdom, for those we are blessing, and for us.
*A chronological examination of any verse that involves money and stewardship, attempting to see the new light that Jesus shines on money in his selfless, grace filled, Holy Spirit empowered, and Kingdom oriented positions. This is the twenty-first post in this series.