[Jesus said:] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“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. 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 sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“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.’
“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. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 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.’
“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?’
“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.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
We all know Mother Teresa and her great compassion for the poor. People would often ask her how she was able to love the poor so much, and in response, she would grasp the questioner’s hand, slowly wiggle a finger at a time, and say: You. Did. It. To. Me. She was, of course, quoting Jesus in this Parable of the Sheep and the Goats that he told. For Mother Teresa, it was the perfect expression of her faith. It should be for us, too, because although we are saved by grace and not by works, our works reflect our new life in Christ.
Paul wrote: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). This is the gospel truth. It is often quoted, and rightly so. However, we rarely find the following verse quoted. He writes, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” So, you see how the two are related? One leads to the other. James said it wonderfully: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds — or works? Can such faith save them?”
Then, he continues with an example: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17). He is not saying that the deeds are going to save us — I am never going to be able to feed every hungry man, give water to every thirsty woman, or clothe every naked child, no matter how much I might want to! Besides, God will never allow us to take credit for our salvation. So, what is James saying, then?
He is saying that the deeds are a sign of authentic faith. When we see a person who is hungry, or thirsty, or naked, we will see Jesus in them. This is because God has put a new spirit within us, replacing our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh (see Ezekiel 11:19, 36:26). Consequently, we will be “automatically” moved to help them. Otherwise, the faith we profess is bogus and cannot save us. Do you see? Let me end with another quote from Mother Teresa. She said, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”
It really is this simple.