Skip to content
Jun 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 19, 2010

Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it toone of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'” Matthew 25:31-46 (37-40)

INTRO: Whenever the Scriptures brings up the last judgment, it is to force us to look at ultimate issues
When my life reaches its final hour, what will it equal?
 – what will be the sum total of everything I’ve done?
 – taken as a whole, what was my life’s value? its spiritual and moral quality? its contribution?
– what was the meaning of my life?
These are the issues that are put on trial before the Son of Man in Matthew 25

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10

So the Bible occasionally fast-forwards us to the last day, because the time to think about (and work on) ultimate issues is not a year, or month, or week, or hour before our death
– the moment we are in right now is the time when we need to be concerned with ultimate issues

Two scenes near the end of the movie “Saving Private Ryan” are connected by a single theme:

  1. In the first scene, Captain John Miller (played by Tom Hanks) is sitting near a bridge, dying
    – he has lost almost every soldier in his troop, sent to extract Private James Ryan, the only surviving son of widow, to send him home to his mother
    – Captain Miller says to him, “James . . . earn this. Earn it.” He was referring to the price that was paid in human lives to get Private Ryan safely home
  2. In the other scene, with which the movie ends, James Ryan is an old man, nearing his own death
    – he stands by grave of Captain Miller, choked with emotion, and has this brief conversation with his wife:

“Tell me I have led a good life.”
“Tell me I’m a good man.”
“You are.”

Ryan is trying to measure the worth of his life
– trying to determine how he did with the ultimate issues

So in Matthew 25, what is Jesus saying about ultimate issues?
Basically this: The life we live, the people we become, and the goodness that flows from us to others  makes all the difference

To bring this issue into today, I want to explore the environment of our lives
– the mental and social landscape where opportunities arise to confront ultimate issues
– I will be generalizing our situation, so as always, you are welcome to disagree with me

Our culture, influenced as it is by our institutions
(educational, corporate, media, government, and in some instances religious),
our culture has two roles to which it assigns people and both are soul-killing
We are inserted into the role of either a producer or a consumer

  1. Producers
    Doing work that demands everything, exhausts (and depleting) the body and mind
     – they are left with nothing for their family at the end of the day
     – they work like indentured slaves, trying to pay off the mortgage on their lives
     – and they stay on the hamster wheel because they’re obsessed with the fear of unemployment
    I think of prison guards, who for the time they are on duty are just as much prisoners as the inmates
     – their work hours are spent in the same drab emptiness of blank monochrome rooms and hallways
     – the same is true of most government buildings–the DMV, for example
    (by the way, portraits of American presidents do not qualify as “art” any more than motivational calendars and posters)
     – the same is true of many warehouses, factories and hospitals
    (no wonder minimum wage workers there do not care for souls of the patients, no one is caring for their souls)
    When new device is invented for keeping french fries warm and fresh, nothing is built into it that might possibly enhance the soul of the employees who use it or work around it
     – I don’t mean safety features, which are included simply due to liability issues
     – no thought is given to beauty, creativity, or requiring the ongoing development of a human mind
    Engineers have proven capable of solving all kinds of design problems
     – there’s no reason to think they can’t solve the soul-crushing problems
    (for one alternative, see )
    Why do we immediately despair over this idea?
     – because we are Americans and pragmatic – if it doesn’t make money, it’s not going to fly, but will  be considered a waste of resources and money
     – of course, the person way down the line cannot justify expensive ways of humanizing work spaces
    – but traveling up the line you come to the executive where the issue is no longer need, but greed
  2. Consumers
    What does it mean to live in a free society?
    Advertisers tell us that it means having enough money to enjoy yourself
     – to be in good health
     – to live secure, without danger of robbed, attacked
     – to have all kinds of commodities & entertainment
    That kind of freedom becomes boring
     – it isn’t big enough to satisfy the human soul
     – but when we get to point that we realize it’s boring, we are immediately fed a new reality show or a celebrity scandal on the cover of our favorite trash magazine, etc. 
     – the media constantly stuffs us with useless and irrelevant information, until we fall into a zombie-like existence of endless consumption
    When did we stop asking the big questions or stop looking for the meaning of our lives?
     – how did we get to this place where our interests rarely rise above learning who will be the next American idol?
    Our soul needs and craves a big idea–the soul is huge and needs a challenge equal to its volume
     – without that, the mind will create problems, take foolish risks
     – mere survival is not a big enough idea for the soul
     – spending our lives at play is not big enough
    We are going to get to the end and realize, we’re unprepared to have the worth of our lives examined, because we never took on challenge of ultimate issues

 Jesus says the ultimate issues—the heaven and hell issues—lie in him
That, in the final assessment of the lives we’ve lived, we will look in his face and he will tell us that we took care of him or else we neglected him

I love it, that the “righteous” were surprised to learn that they had fed, clothed, and visited Jesus
Someone has said that a good person is someone who performs good deeds without knowing that they have

Jesus explained: “To the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine”
 – the New American Standard Bible adds the word “even” when Jesus says, “the least”
 – but Jesus did not mention the least as if they were a kind of afterthought–they are exactly the ones he had in mind
 – there’s nothing special about giving a bottle of water to some important person or celebrity (there are plenty of sycophants who chase stars around trying to ingratiate themselves by doing things for them)
 – Jesus’ concern is for the least, the neglected, the forgotten–the people we turn our faces from

Think about it! We can work at these ultimate issues every day

Over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at how we find our idenity

  • We saw that in discovering who Jesus is, he reveals to us who we are
     – we are defined by our relationship to him
  • We saw that we get additional information about ourselves by listening to our bodies
     – they tell us the trught about our current state

Now we have another way to get to know ourselves
There is a self-knowing that comes with learning to love our neighbor (Mt. 7:12; 22:39)

But more important than getting to know who we are, is whether Jesus knows us

Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” (Mt. 7:22-23)

We can prophesy, yet not be good people; we can perform a miracle without being a good person
But we cannot be known by Jesus or expect to hear him tell us, “Come” rather than, “Depart” apart from living according to the ultimate issues
 – namely, loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and loving our neighbor as our self

Leave a comment