Good Shepherd Lutheran

Truly Good Deeds – Matthew 25:31-46
These verses from Matthew show the final judgement of the Gentiles during Christ’s return. The sheep will move on to their eternal reward, while the goats face eternal suffering. The strange thing is that no one is even given the chance to say a word in their own defense. The issue is already settled. Each person is simply told which group they belong to. So how was this decision made?
Jesus judges the sheep and goats based on how they treated others in His name. The sheep are asked to take their place on the right hand of the throne because all through their lives their genuine faith has been producing its inevitable fruit unthinkingly and unconsciously. Born out of love for Jesus Christ, they’ve been responding to the pleas and the needs of those around them. They didn’t keep records and they didn’t expect any praise. They were unaware they were doing anything unusual. Instead, they met the needs of others joyfully.
But the goats are surprised by their judgment. “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”, they cry. These folks had probably been making long mental lists of the many times they’d ‘ministered’ to those in need, scorekeeping for their own personal ‘goodness’ quotient. The problem is that good deeds aren’t really all that good when the right motives aren’t there.
They forgot what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount. Deeds done “to be seen by men” already have their reward. Even if the deeds aren’t publicly known, doing them just for personal pride and self-righteousness puts them in the same category.
It’s not the ‘deeds’ the goats remember that Jesus uses for judgment. It’s the times they’ve forgotten. It’s the times they looked the other way when someone was in need. Or when they were too busy to comfort the sick and the dying.
Nothing more clearly reveals the difference between how humanity judges and how God judges than this story. If our treasured “good deeds” aren’t the unconscious, automatic response of a heart indwelt by Jesus Christ then they’re not truly “good” deeds. They’re planned deeds. Contrived and carefully performed in the hope that they’ll purchase some favor from God.
The only way to face judgement unafraid is to model ourselves after the only one capable of responding with truly unselfish love to the needs of others. Jesus Christ. He is our only solution. His grace and love transform us and enable us to face judgement unafraid when we can’t do it on our own.
The problem has always been that our efforts often aren’t good enough because our ‘good deeds’ aren’t truly all that good. It’s the saving power of Jesus Christ and His power of transformation that can truly turn our marginally ‘good deeds’ to eternal goodness and reward.