Just when we are celebrating on Thanksgiving all of the blessings which God bestows upon us, Jesus’ teaching in our gospel text, Matthew 25:31-46, goes back and not only challenges our Thanksgiving sensibilities, but actually offends us. Just when we are thinking we are doing pretty good in this life, and our “scorecard” looks pretty good, Jesus not only talks about the sheep and the goats; he tells us that he will divide all of humankind, blessing the sheep with the peace and glory of being in His presence for eternity, and cursing those who are the goats for all of eternity.
So what is really at stake here? This is a well-known text and normally motivates our thinking into action. We attempt to stave off being judged as a goat by trying to “do” the things Jesus talks about; feed the hungry, clothe the poor, take care of the widow, visit those in prison. We again look at our scorecard and say, “hmm…if I just add a few more good deeds, then I can surely justify myself and my life.”
However, there is a twist. In the middle of our mind setting off on the path of do-gooding, Jesus says, “the righteous will say, 'When did we do this?'” The offense of Jesus teaching is his exposing our self-righteousness, our ability to think we can earn God’s favor; that by doing good things for others, we actually gain points on our heavenly scorecard. He tells us it was not because we strove to be Mother Theresa, but that he used us when we did not know it or take credit for it – these times happened as the fruits of faith. Jesus names those who did not even know they had given of themselves in such a way as to not take any credit, and gives them an identity of righteous.
As we gather around the table this Thanksgiving weekend, let us give thanks for all of the blessings known and unknown to us. Not that we would dwell on the physical blessings of possessions, but that we would really recognize that in the ebb and flow of life, Jesus gives us our greatest blessing, himself. He gives us the gift of faith to know and trust in him so we might get just a small foretaste of the feast to come when we live in eternity with God.
Join us this weekend for worship as we hear what Christ has done!
Happy Thanksgiving, and many blessings on you and your families!
Jeff Backer, Intern Pastor