Sunday School Lessons

Who and How Do We Serve?

In Matthew 25, after Jesus described how the “sheep” (a group of people whom He had separated from another group) had served Him, those “sheep” receiving His blessing are a little perplexed.

“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.’
Matthew 25:37‭-‬40 NIV

I’m pretty sure that each of us would like to receive the blessings that Jesus described for this group (“the righteous”) in Matthew 25:34.  In light of Jesus’ reply that certain kinds of behavior differentiated this group from the other group (the “goats”), let’s try to figure out exactly what that service looks like: who those “others” are, and what we should be doing for them.  (By the way, I’m not suggesting that “good deeds” like this cause us to merit or earn salvation.  Rather, I believe that demonstrated righteousness is a result of accepting imputed righteousness from Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, as we give our lives over to Him.  That’s for an upcoming article in this series, though.)

To sort this out, it’s important for us to first identify these “brothers and sisters” of Jesus, or the “least of these”.  I propose that there are two possible answers to this (and followers of Jesus probably have obligations to both of them, whether or not both are indicated in this particular passage).

  • First, there is the body of Christ.  (See Galatians 6:7-10, especially verse 10.)  There seems to be a special calling to serve others within the family of God, over and above helping those who are not yet part of it.
  • Second, there are our neighbors.  When someone asked Jesus who his neighbor was, Jesus gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37).  What made the injured man the Good Samaritan’s neighbor?  I suggest that the criteria were something like, 1) the injured guy was there when the Samaritan arrived, 2) he needed help and, 3) the Samaritan could provide the required help (although God can even help us accomplish what we can’t on our own, so that last one might be optional).

If these are the people who we should be serving, then we need to be prepared to take action.  I suspect that this can take a lot of forms, but if you’re not sure where God is leading you…well, ask Him first.  (Don’t be like the person who complains that he can’t figure out what his spouse / teacher / manager / customer wants, when he has the ability to ask directly and find out.)

Your calling from God may vary from mine, but this chapter gives us some specific areas that God might ask us to serve in:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Show hospitality
  • Clothe those who need it
  • Help the sick
  • Visit those in prison

These are all fairly straightforward to do, and – even in a wealthy country – there are plenty of people who need help in each of these categories.  Start in the church, and look for those who need a hand.  Ask God where He wants you to help specifically.  Offer politely and discreetly, allowing the other person to retain their dignity as they accept help.  And, emphasize that you are helping in Jesus’ name.  Serving Jesus is still something that we can do, so let’s not miss that opportunity.

From Sunday School lesson prepared for December 18, 2022


  • The Lookout, December 18, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
  • Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
  • The College Press NIV Commentary – Matthew, by Larry Chouinard, pages 443-447.  © 1997 College Press Publishing Co.

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