Focal Passage: Matthew 25:34-40
Jesus used a parable to indicate the kind of person who would enter into the Kingdom of heaven. Placing sheep on the right hand and goats on the left, Jesus explained that genuine righteousness is revealed in one’s compassion toward others.
Timothy Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, noted the broad nature of the activities Jesus listed for His followers in Matthew 25: “It is a remarkably comprehensive list. This is the kind of community that Jesus said [H]is true disciples would establish. Believers should be opening their homes and purses to each other, drawing even the poorest and most foreign into their homes and community, giving financial aid, medical treatment, shelter, advocacy, active love, support and friendship.”
In this gospel, Jesus directs many of His charges against the self-righteousness of the Pharisees and religious leaders. They embodied the outward appearance of righteousness and religion. They wanted people to know about their fasting and obedience. The righteousness of the Pharisees and religious leaders was self-righteousness. They pursued justification before God by the way they looked on the outside.
Many were entirely unconcerned with the condition of those around them (like the goats in the parable). Self-righteousness cares only about the outward appearance of righteousness – not the inward righteousness and compassion that comes with genuine faith.
In this parable, the contrast could not be more poignant. True righteousness is found only by the grace of Jesus Christ. As a result, the truly righteous (the sheep in this parable) show concern and compassion for their fellowman. They are blissfully unaware of their own righteousness as they asked the Lord, “When did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or in prison, or naked?”
Genuine righteousness is comprised of building a community of compassion and service toward others. The genuinely righteous care precisely because they’ve been changed and redeemed by Christ – who modeled this community of compassion throughout his earthly ministry.