If you want to serve the Lord, serve his people. This is the message of this section of scripture. It is an important lesson and one we must remember. It is clear from this section of scripture that judgement will be based in part upon how we have treated our brethren.
The Lord has made it clear that the primary message under both the Old and New Covenants is about relationships. Firstly, it is about our relationship with God, and secondly it is about our relationship with our fellow man. In this section of scripture he shows that when we do any kindness or provide any service to one of our brethren, we are doing it to him. We serve the Lord by serving his people. The contrary also applies. When we fail to serve his people and ignore the needs of his people, we are failing to serve the Lord.
The essence of our relationship with both God and man is love. When asked by the lawyers, which was the greatest of the laws he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40) Under the law the basis of all the commandments rested on these two: to love God and to love your neighbour.
Under the New Covenant it is the same principle underlying the teachings of Jesus. Jesus taught that we are to love one another. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13:1-8,
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
5 it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;
6 it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never ends
Without love towards God and our fellow man we are nothing and have nothing. Love is the basis of life and the essence of relationships, for God is love as John wrote. (1 John 4:8, 16) In 1 Corinthians 13 we see the love of God defined and described. This love is a love that is about action. It is not emotional love but action based and behavioural love. We do good things and behave with compassion and care towards those we love. When we do the things expressed in this scripture we show that we love our neighbours, brethren and our fellow man.
Likewise in this section of Matthew 25:31-46 we see that all of the things Jesus is saying to the people in this parable are based on love. He will judge his people on the basis of their love for their fellow man based upon how they treat their neighbour. This is about action. It is about what you do, not what you say.
In Matthew 23 Jesus upbraided the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. A hypocrite is someone who speaks but does not do what they say. They say one thing and do another. They are rightly condemned for their false ways. Christians who hear the words of God and the teachings of Jesus but do nothing about them are likewise on shaky ground. He says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:21-27;
21 “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’
23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.’
24 “Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;
25 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
26 And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;
27 and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.”
The key here is not about hearing the words of God, but doing them. Acting on the teachings of Jesus so that we can grow and mature in Christ. Part of this is about how we treat our fellow man and this is the teaching being brought forth in this section of Matthew 25.
Learn what you need to know to live a life based on love. Learn the teachings of Jesus that will enable you to walk in love. And make sure that you fulfil the call of a Christian, which is to live a life of love for God by showing love towards him, Jesus and your fellow man. If you want to serve the Lord, serve his people.