The Heart’s Compass

Matthew 25:31-46

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

“Only God knows the Heart”

This is a well-meaning but often misleading phrase that we like to use when evaluating a Christian life. It is true that that none of us can truly know what is in the heart of another person, so Christ gives us the admonition to “judge not lest you be judged” by the standard you use to judge another. 

But we can and should know what is happening in our own hearts. 

Matthew 25:31-46 describes two groups of “disciples.” Both groups of people believed that they belonged to God and would be saved at the last day. Both of them were engaged in doing outward deeds. The moral to Jesus’ story, however, is that the deeds of the two groups revealed very different conditions of their hearts.

The group on the right was engaged in deeds of compassion that overflowed from the condition of a righteous heart. The group on the left did not have any deeds of compassion to serve as a sign that their hearts were righteous before God. One group had reasons in reality that would point to the fact that they had transformed hearts, the other groups had zero reason in which to base their wrong belief.

Questions for Reflections

  • What is the connection between worshipping Jesus and serving “the least of these?”
  • Who are the least of these in your life today?
  • Why are we often so reluctant to evaluate the condition of our hearts based on our deeds?
  • Why does Jesus have no problem with allowing deeds of compassion to serve as a window into the condition of our hearts?
  • Why does rejecting the needs of the “least of these” place us in the same level of condemnation as “the devil and his angels?”