Sacrificing Care & Compassion On the Altar of “Ministry” and “Works”

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament dispel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses thirty-one through forty-six of the twenty-fifth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find the final portion of the twenty-fifth chapter being presented before you. As you read the words contained within these final verses you will find Jesus’ final words pertaining to the last days which were spoken just prior to His death and burial in the grave. Thus far within this chapter we have found a parable of ten virgins who all went out to meet the bridegroom—five virgins who were foolish and five who were wise. Concerning these virgins Jesus makes us aware of the fact that they all went out to meet Him, they all went out with their lamps burning, and they all slept and slumbered while waiting for the bridegroom to arrive. While they were sleeping, however, the call concerning the arrival of the bridegroom went forth and they immediately woke from their slumber and prepared to meet him. The one difference between the foolish virgins and the wise virgins was that when their lamps showed signs of going out, the wise virgins had extra oil with them with which to keep their lamps burning. When the foolish virgins not only recognized that they didn’t have enough oil, but also that their lamps had gone out, they asked the other virgins for some of their oil with which to keep their lamps burning. It’s important to recognize and understand that the main difference between these virgins cane not when they were preparing to meet the bridegroom, but rather when the actual call was sounded concerning the arrival of the bridegroom. This actually brings me face to face with something that is truly remarkable—namely, that one of the greatest realities concerning the coming of the bridegroom is that everything was revealed, exposed and manifested at the sound and call of His coming. THE ARRIVAL OF THE BRIDEGROOM REVEALS EVERYTHING! We must recognize and understand that it wasn’t until the call of the bridegroom was sounded that we actually discover the foolishness of the five virgins who didn’t bring extra oil for their lamps. Oh please don’t miss or lose sight of this reality, for it is one that must needs be carefully considered by us as we prepare to endure in these last days.

As this chapter continues and progresses we find Jesus moving forth from the parable of the ten virgins to the parable concerning the householder and his three servants. In this particular parable we find the householder preparing to leave and travel on a distant journey. Before and prior to His departure, however, the householder took of that which was his and entrusted it unto his servants. In the parable Jesus describes how unto the first Servant he gave five talents, unto the second Servant he gave two talents, and unto the third Servant he gave a single talent. In the parable Jesus revealed that when the master distributed of his wealth and that which belonged to him, he gave unto each Servant according to their own ability. This is in and of itself unique, for the householder knew exactly what these servants were capable of handling in his absence, and distributed to them accordingly. What is perhaps the greatest truth and reality that is found in this particular passage of scripture is that these servants were not only entrusted with that which belonged to the master, but they were entrusted with it in his absence. In the previous parable we are confronted with that which is revealed at the coming of the bridegroom, while in this parable all is revealed in the householders absence. In the previous parable the foolishness of the five virgins who didn’t bring enough oil was revealed at the sound of the coming of the bridegroom, while in this parable we find the foolishness and unfaithfulness of this third Servant being revealed at the return and coming of the absence. In this second parable we are not only confronted with the reality of what we do in the absence of the Master, but also what can and will be revealed at the coming and return of the Master. If there is one thing we must carefully consider and understand, it’s that all things which we have done in the absence of the Master can and will be revealed at the coming and return of the Master. Faithfulness is not only revealed, but it is also judged st the coming and return of the Master. What we do in the absence of the Master, and what we do while we are waiting for the coming and return of the Master is and will be revealed when the Master returns and comes back a second time. I am completely and utterly convinced that wisdom is demonstrated in the absence of the Master and in the absence of the bridegroom, as well as is revealed, manifested and exposed in the arrival and coming of the bridegroom and master. In the case of the five foolish virgins, their foolishness did not truly begin to be revealed until the call for the bridegroom went forth and they realized that they had no oil to light their lamps which had gone out. The foolishness and unfaithfulness of the servant was revealed and manifested when the householder and master returned and called for an account of his stewardship.

The more I read this particular chapter found within the New Testament gospel of Matthew, the more I am completely and utterly convinced that what is contained therein is a wonderful and powerful revelation concerning that which is done in the absence of the bridegroom, and that which is done in the absence of the master. There is not a doubt in my mind that this entire chapter is centered upon the wonderful and powerful reality of how we are to live and how we are to conduct ourselves in the absence of the bridegroom and in the absence of the master. We would be incredible naïve and foolish to read this particular chapter and think for one minute that it does not reveal, expose and bring us face to face with our own wisdom and/or foolishness in the absence of the bridegroom, as well as our faithfulness and/or our unfaithfulness in the absence of the master and householder. I can’t help but read Jesus’ words within this passage and find a continuation of that which began in the previous chapter, for as the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel draws to a close we find Jesus beginning to transition away from speaking of the signs and dangers of the end times and the Last Days, To actually beginning to speak about how we are to live in the light of the knowledge of the Last Days and in the reality that Jesus is going to return in the same way He ascended unto the right hand of His Father. If you begin reading with and from the forty-third verse of the twenty-fourth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus beginning to shift His attention and focus away from guarding against deception, and guarding against offense and a troubled heart, and to speak about actually putting forth the effort to ready and prepare ourselves for the coming and return of the Master. What’s more, is that this reality is all the more heightened and all the more pertinent since no one knows the day nor the hour of the return of the Master—not even the angels in heaven, nor even Jesus Christ Himself. Beginning with the forty-third verse of the twenty-fourth chapter we find the following words spoken by Jesus which begin to transition to the reality of how we are to live, and how we are to conduct ourselves—not only in His absence, but also in our preparation for His coming and His return. Consider if you will the words which are found in the final verses found within the twenty-fourth chapter of this New Testament gospel:

“But know this, that if the Goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looked not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:43-51).

In the forty-fourth verse of this particular chapter we find Jesus instructing His disciples to be ye therefore ready, for we do not know in what hour He will return for His church and for His bride. When we begin reading with and from the forty-third chapter of the twenty-fourth chapter we begin to notice Jesus transitioning to a teaching concerning the Last Days which I am utterly convinced falls by the wayside. The more I sit here and the more I think about the last days, the more I can’t help but be convinced with the reality that there are countless men and women who spend all their time seeking to study the signs of the end times, and who seek to understand the events which are occurring and transpiring in the end times and during the last days, and yet they are neglecting the tremendous and wonderful need to watch, to prepare, and to make themselves ready for the imminent return and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. I am compelled to emphatically declare that there is a fine line and a vast difference between studying the end times and studying the signs of the times and actually making ourselves ready, watching and waiting for the Last Days. This reality is manifested in and with the words which the apostle Peter—one who walked with Jesus for three and a half years, and one who heard the words which Jesus spoke on this particular occasion in the midst of and before His disciples. In the third chapter of the second epistle which the apostle Peter wrote within the New Testament, we are directly and completely confronted with the fact that the Lord is in fact coming, and that there will be scoffers who will arise and emerge in the last days questioning the coming and return of the Master. As you read the words which the apostle Peter writes in this particular passage, however, we not only notice his writing concerning the end times and the Last Days, but we also find him bringing it back to the main and central theme at the forefront of the Last Days—namely, how we are to live, and how we are conduct ourselves in light of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Beginning to read with and from the first verse of the third chapter of this second epistle, consider the following words which were written by the apostle Peter:

“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: that ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwellers righteousness. Wherefore beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the long suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2 Peter 3:1-18).

Pay attention to that which is found in the eleventh verse of this chapter, for what we find in the eleventh verse is of more importance and relevance than what we read concerning the Last Days. It is true that the heavens will dissolve with fire, and that heaven and earth shall pass away, and that both have been reserved for a fiery judgment, however, that is not the main and underlying reality that is centered within the Last Days. If you begin reading with and from the eleventh verse of this particular chapter you will find the apostle Peter ask a very pointed and powerful question of those to whom he is writing—namely, “seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11. Within this particular verse the apostle Peter asks his readers and his audience point blank what manner of people they ought to be in light of the fact that heaven and earth will be dissolved with fire, and shall pass away before a new heaven and a new earth shall be created by the living God. In the eleventh verse of this particular chapter the apostle Peter begins to speak concerning holy conversation and godliness, but as you transition to the twelfth verse within this same chapter you will find the apostle Peter going on to write concerning our looking for and hasting the coming of the day of God. What’s more, is that in the thirteenth verse of the same chapter, the apostle Peter also goes on to write concerning our looking for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, while in the fourteenth verse of this chapter we find the apostle going on to write that as we look for such things, we are to be diligent that we may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless. Please don’t miss or lose sight of that which is found in this particular portion of the second epistle written by the apostle Peter, for within this chapter we find the apostle Peter bringing the reality of the last days down and back to the question of what type of men and women we ought to be in light of what we learn and what we know concerning the last days. The apostle Peter writes how the heavens and the earth will be dissolved with fire, and that heaven and earth shall pass away, however, that is not the main and underlying reality we are called to contend with concerning the last days, for of more importance than what happens to the heavens and the earth is how we live and how we conduct ourselves in light of the reality of what will take place within the last days. The apostle Peter emphatically declares that we are to be such men and women of holy conversation and godliness as we look for and hasten the coming of the day of God. Furthermore, the apostle Peter brings us face to face with the reality that as we look for such things we are to be found of Him to be in peace, without spot, and blameless. Oh, it is absolutely necessary that we recognize and pay close attention to this reality, for it has the ability to completely shape and transform how we live in light of, and how we live in the midst of the last days.

As you return back to the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Jesus Christ as was written and recorded by the apostle Matthew, you will find Jesus essentially speaking forth three distinct parables, and/or three distinct realities concerning the Last Days. There is not a doubt in my mind when I read the words which are found and contained within this passage of Scripture that it is completely and entirely centered upon how we live and how we conduct ourselves in light of the imminent coming and return of the Lord Jesus Christ. That which we find in this particular passage of Scripture is of extreme importance, for the central theme that runs through each of the three sections contained within this chapter are focused upon how we live and how we conduct ourselves—not only in the absence of the Master, but also how we live and how we conduct ourselves as we wait for and prepare for the coming again and return of the Master. Within the first thirteen verses of this chapter we find the parable of the ten virgins which speaks of watching and being ready for the coming and return of the bridegroom, while in verses fourteen through thirty we find Jesus speaking of faithfulness and stewardship of that which has been entrusted unto us and into our care in light of His absence in these Last Days. In verses thirty-one through forty-six of this chapter we find Jesus taking this reality of how we live and how we conduct ourselves in light of His absence a step further to speaking of a separation that will take place in the Last Days when Jesus will separate the goat from the sheep, and reveals the one single, and the one fundamental difference between the two. Consider if you will the words which are found in the final portion of this chapter beginning to read with and from the thirty-first verse:

“When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divide them his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say u not them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? Or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of one of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall He say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not> Then shall they also answer Him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall He answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matthew 25:31-46).

What you will find in this particular chapter from beginning to end is essentially a dividing line between two different and two distinct groups of people. In the first thirteen verses we find a dividing line between the ten virgins, as wisdom was proven among the virgins based on possessing enough oil to keep their lamps burning for when the bridegroom came and invited them into the house where the marriage was to take place. At the beginning of this parable there appeared to be no distinction between the ten virgins, as each of the virgins were preparing to meet the bridegroom, as each virgin had a lamp that was lit and possessed oil, and as each virgin slept and slumbered while waiting for the bridegroom to come and return. Where the distinction was made and where the dividing line was drawn was in the call concerning the bridegroom, and how the five wise virgins had enough oil to keep their lamps burning as they went out to meet the bridegroom. In the case of the three servants, there was no distinction between them at the beginning—other than the fact that unto each servant was given an exact measure and portion based on their individual ability. It’s worth noting and understanding that the true distinction wasn’t revealed and wasn’t actualized among these servants until it came to the third servant, and this servant returned unto the Master that which was his, and declared that he was a hard man whom he feared. The distinction found among and between these three servants was not in the giving of the talents and that which was entrusted unto them, but what they actually did with what was given unto them. Not every servant is given the same measure as others, and in all reality, this isn’t even really the point. The point of this parable is not centered around what we are given and what we have been entrusted with, but what we do and what we have done with what we have been entrusted with. In fact, this actually brings us face to face with what we read and what we find in the final portion of this particular chapter within the New Testament gospel of Matthew, for as you read concerning the sheep and the goats, you will quickly discover that the only difference between the two which were separated before the King was what they did and didn’t do among the least of these. In fact, as I read the words which are found in verses thirty-one through forty-six of this particular chapter I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke in His Sermon on the Mount, which the apostle Matthew recorded for us in the seventh chapter of this particular gospel. Consider if you will the words which Jesus spoke as He prepared for His Sermon to draw to a close:

“Enter ye in at the trait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leaders to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leaders unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringers forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringers forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringers not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that smith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:13-23).

You might wonder why I have chosen to reference and include this particular passage found earlier on in the New Testament gospel of Matthew when speaking of that which Jesus spoke concerning the separation of the sheep and the goats. The answer is actually quite simple, for I am convinced that there might very well be a distinction and parallel between the two realities which is often overlooked. In the twenty-fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find Jesus speaking concerning the separation of the sheep and the goats, and how the sheep were separated and invited to enter into and experience the joys of the kingdom of heaven because of what they did unto the least of these. The goat were separated on the other side because of what they neglected to do unto the least of these. The truth of the matter is that I can’t help but get the strong sense within my heart and spirit that there are those who might do many wonderful works, and those who might prophesy in the name of the Lord, and those who might cast out devils, and yet they neglected the least of these. It is possible to prophesy in the name of the Lord, and yet completely neglect and ignore the least of these—completely reject and ignore, and even despise them on a daily and consistent basis. It is possible to cast out devils and to even do many wonderful and mighty works, and yet completely miss and neglect that which is of tremendous worth and importance to the King—namely, that which we do and that which we have done unto and for the least of these. Within this particular passage of Scripture we are directly confronted with the awesome and wonderful reality of negligence in the Last Days, and completely ignoring the least of these. Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan as is recorded in the New Testament gospel of Luke, for within this particular parable—not only do we learn who is our neighbor, and what it means to be a neighbor unto another, but we also learn what it looks like to do and to give unto the least of these. Within this parable both a priest and a Levite came upon this man who had fallen among thieves and robbers, and had been beaten and left half dead, and yet they both chose to ignore and neglect this man and leave him in to die and perish on the way. Perhaps the Levite and the priest were on their way to engage in ministry at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and they could not be bothered with something that would interfere with their journey unto the Temple. Perhaps they were unwilling to sacrifice their ministry in the temple for care and compassion along the way and on the road.

Oh, what a tremendous indictment this is when you consider that it is possible that there are those among us who are perfectly willing to sacrifice care and compassion for those in need on the altar of “ministry” and “works.” SACRIFICING CARE AND COMPASSION ON THE ALTAR OF MINISTRY AND WORKS! There is not a doubt in my mind that there are going to be a number of men and women in the last days who are going to be completely and utterly shocked when they find that their “ministry” and their “works” amounted to absolutely nothing in the sight of the living God because they sacrificed care and compassion on the altar of such “ministry” and “works.” In fact, I am completely and utterly convinced that we can engage ourselves in a tremendous amount of “ministry” and “works,” and even do great things in and for the name of the Lord, and yet we can find ourselves among the goats in that day because of our sheer negligence of that which truly mattered. If your “ministry” and your “works” does not have any room in it for the least of these, then I would dare say that your ministry and your works are completely and utterly useless and worthless in the sight of the living God. What’s more, is that I am convinced that true and authentic ministry takes place in the shadows and doesn’t even take place in the light or in the spotlight. We would like to think that true and genuine ministry takes place in the spotlight, and yet the truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case at all. True and authentic ministry takes place in the shadows among the least of these when no one is looking and when there is no one to give us any applause or accolades. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many goats will be found in that day who cast out many devils, who performed many mighty works, and who prophesied in the name of the Lord, and yet they will be sent off to everlasting punishment because they neglected and ignored that which truly mattered to the King—namely, the care of the hungry, the thirsty, the poor, the sick, those in prison, and those who were naked. What’s more, is that I would dare say that Jesus isn’t impressed with much of what we call “ministry” that takes place in these Last days—despite the fact that it gets applauded by men and women. Jesus has never been impressed with anything that neglects justice and mercy, for when you read the Old Testament you will find that pure religion that is undefiled is to care for the orphans and the widows, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. The question we must ask ourselves as we are living in these Last Days is how we are living in light of the Last Days, and whether or not we are sacrificing care and compassion for the least of these on the altar of “ministry” and “works”—that which has no eternal value or worth in the sight of the King. Oh how many men and women are going to be completely and utterly shocked when they discover that all their works, and all their ministry had absolutely no eternal value and worth in the sight of the King when He separates the sheep from the goats in that day. The question we must ask ourselves is what we are doing in these Last Days that has eternal value and eternal worth in the sight of the King, and whether or not we are committing ourselves to engaging in the care and compassion for the least of these, and for the poor, for the orphans, and for the widows. Oh that we would read the words which Jesus spoke in this particular passage, and that we would truly examine that which we are doing “in the name of the Lord” and “for the glory of the Lord,” and ask whether or not what we are doing has any eternal value, or is nothing more than vain works that appeals to the here and now, but matters not when we stand before the King. Oh that we would truly learn how to live in the Last Days, and what we ought to do in light of the reality that the King is coming and will call into account our stewardship of what has been entrusted unto us.

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