“When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.” (Matthew 25:31-34)
…these are the words of Jesus from Matthew chapter 25, depicting that great and terrible final day of judgment when we all will stand before Jesus Christ the King…
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:
I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
“Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’
“Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—
I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’
“Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’
“He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’
“Then those ‘goats’ will be herded to their eternal doom, but the ‘sheep’ to their eternal reward.” (Matthew 25:35-46)
That has to be one of the most unnerving passages in all the bible! Have you come to grips with what it’s saying? Why would the Bible, which so clearly states that we’re NOT saved by our own good works—that acts of kindness will NOT gain us entrance into the Kingdom of God, but we can only find eternal life when we place our faith in Jesus—why would the Bible also clearly say all of this too?
It can only be for this reason: kindness is the evidence of whether or not our faith is real, or it’s just lip service. Ephesians 2 emphatically tells us that the only way we’re saved is by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, and then following this, v10 continues to say: “now, do the good works that God created you to do.”
James 2 echoes this: “faith without works is dead,” meaning, if your faith doesn’t result in works, you got to check yourself because chances are, you’re not actually a christian despite what you’ve believed all along.
Galatians 5:22 explains that Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, because when you give your life to Jesus and the Spirit enters into your life and begins to go to war against every fleshly impulse of yours to wallow in self-pity and miserly living, the Spirit fights to turn your attention away from yourself, away from self-absorption and self-security, and turns you into a selfless, sacrificial individual overflowing with the kindness of Jesus to everyone.
If you looked at two trees—the first filled with leaves and fruit, and the other completely bare—which would you say is alive? The first one, absolutely. But the leaves and fruit don’t bring the tree life, they are simply the evidence of a tree that’s alive.
Same with kindness. Kindness—which is a concern for others that results in serving the needs of others—is the fruit of the Spirit at work in you. Romans 2:4 says it’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. If there is no kindness overflowing from your life, it’s likely God’s Spirit is not in you, and therefore, you are still dead in your sin.
Talk about heavy. “C’mon, Peter, this is the week after mother’s day…”
This is serious, and I believe it’s of the utmost importance that we take some considerable time to deal with it. How do you know if you have eternal life? What can we do to inherit eternal life?
Let’s ask Jesus and see what he has to say about it. Turn with me to Luke chapter 10. Luke 10, and we’ll start with verses 25-29. We may not have Jesus right in front of us, but what we do have are the Scriptures which have been recorded and passed down to us, and in this case, they give us a glimpse into a story where Jesus actually answered that very question.
25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
A little context. This guy is trying to trap Jesus. Jesus has been spreading a message about love and hope and healing, and he’s sharing this good news with the sinners and prostitutes and tax collectors—the lowest of the low in society, so it’s gotten the attention of the more religious. It’s caused some to question if Jesus is soft on his understanding of God’s standard and law.
So he’s trying to trap Jesus, but Jesus turns it around in v26 by asking what the man thinks the law says. This was an answer any good jew would’ve given because if you could boil God’s standard of perfection into a single statement, it would be this: “love God with all that you are and love your neighbor with the same amount of love that you love yourself with.”
And Jesus responds: you’re right. “Do this and you’ll live.” In essence, Jesus is saying “you think I don’t think highly enough of the law and God’s standard? Are you kidding? I think so highly of it that I know it’s the only way to gain eternal life.”
But Jesus knows the impossibility of this standard, and so does the man. That’s why v29 is so interesting. Did you catch it? The man knows what’s required, he knows what the perfection of love that the Law of God demands, so it says he tries to justify himself, asking, “who is my neighbor?”
Who is my neighbor. “I’ll love these people. But not those. I’ll show kindness to this person, but never him. Never her.”
So in response, Jesus tells a story. verse 30.
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
This story reveals several things to us about what kindness is and what it does.
Kindness is motivated by compassion. v33 tells us when the samaritan saw the man hurt, he had compassion. But it didn’t stop there. Kindness is compassion in action. Kindness doesn’t stop with pure sentiment. Kindness takes action.
Four statements about what Kindness does, then we’ll look at each one: 1) Kindness puts others first. 2) Kindness willingly risks. 3) Kindness absorbs the cost. And 4) Kindness follows up.
1. Kindness puts others first
The Priest and Levite walk on by, but the Samaritan stopped. The weight of this would have been felt. Priests were God’s way to connect with the people. The Levites were the only tribe of Israel where Priests came from. If neither a priest nor a levite would stop—neither a pastor nor a christian would stop—that was like being beyond hope.
Echoes from Isaiah 1 and 58 would’ve been heard, when God said “Why all these sacrifices? What about the poor and homeless and defenseless among you? That’s the fast that I require.”
Who knows what the Priest and Levite were up to. Maybe they were off to prep a sermon, maybe they were on their way to church or to small group. Maybe their minds were on something important they had to do. Point is, they had their own thing going on and they weren’t going to be inconvenienced by the needs of someone else.
And yet, we see the Samaritan, someone not from around here, someone who had no moral obligation to stop, as the only one who did, because he had compassion. He didn’t just see the man in need (the priest and levite saw and were unmoved), but the Samaritan saw him and was moved with a stomach-turning, gut-wrenching compassion, so he showed kindness by putting the needs of this man above his own.
We also see that:
2. Kindness willingly risks.
Jesus begins the story by telling us about a man who was robbed traveling between Jerusalem and Jericho. There was this particular stretch of the Jericho road known as the “Way of Blood” because so many people were robbed and killed there. The people listening would’ve instantly known the precise location Jesus was talking about in his story.
This is important because that’s no where near Samaria. “…we’re not in Kansas anymore…” The Samaritan is no where near home: he’s traveling in a horribly dangerous part of town and he has no idea if he’ll even make it back safely, but he still takes the risk and cares for this man anyway.
It’s also worth noting: he’s taking a dangerous risk by caring for a man who wants nothing to do with him.
You have to know: Jews hated Samaritans. They were thought of as lower life forms (they were half-bloods—half jew, half not—they were muggle born mud-bloods, for all you Harry Potter fans). Jews hated Samaritans so much, that the word Samaritan even became a derogatory term. In John 8, the pharisees are so mad with Jesus, they don’t even know what to call him, so they say, “You, you, you, Samaritan!”
That’s why Jesus is a genius for telling the story the way he did. It’s the parable of the Good Samaritan, not the Good Jew. Why?
If Jesus told the story of the Jew who walked passed the hurt and needy samaritan, the man might’ve responded, “What? No way. No good Jew would ever stop for such a person.” You may think, “That’s crazy, how can that be allowed?” but that became socially acceptable behavior. So Jesus forces his hand. He puts the lawyer in the place of the beat up man who is so in need that he’ll accept help from anyone, even a Samaritan.
Who are we unwilling to help because it doesn’t fit into our comfortable, safe, socially acceptable paradigm? What parts of town are we unwilling to travel to? What types of people do we, even subconsciously, avoid because that’s “just the way the world works”? Imagine the profound impact on our city if we cared for those outside our social circles?
There’s a great example of this from the 4th century. The Roman Emperor Julian tried to resurrect paganism by building better temples, doing better services…all in an attempt to destroy the influence of Christianity, but it never took off and Christianity still continued to spread. Why?
Here’s what he had to say about it: “Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstitions of these Christians as their kindness to strangers. The impious
Galileans provide not only for their own poor, but for ours as well.”
Did you catch that? “[Those christians] take care of not only their own poor, but ours as well.” They’re generous with their kindness and are willing to risk for all and it had a profound effect on the world around them.
I also want you to see, that…
3. Kindness absorbs the cost
The Samaritan takes care of everything. verses 33-34 details what all that entailed: he bandages up the man’s wounds, he applies wine and oil as an antiseptic, lets him ride on his donkey and sets him up for a few nights at the Holiday Inn. He gives the concierge money to cover all costs and offers to reimburse any additional charges. Those tiny little sodas in the room’s mini fridge were just as expensive then as they are now.
This is the overwhelming, over-the-top, generosity of kindness, because kindness is compassion in action borne from love.
Love is the context of this story of compassion and kindness. “Love God with all you are, and love your neighbor with the same ferocity that you love yourself.” The word used here for love in the Greek is the word Agape. Agape love is a particular kind of love. It’s a love that is sacrificial and covenantal. It’s willing to lay down all that it is in order to see you become all that you were meant to be.
The Samaritan absorbs the cost entirely because he wants to see fullness and restoration take place in this man’s life. When you love God and love people in that kind of a way, and it sinks down deep enough, it creates a gut-wrenching compassion for others and overflows into acts of kindness for all.
If it doesn’t, then you know it’s not love. That’s what 1 John 3:17-18 says verbatim.
17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no compassion on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with [just] words or speech but with actions and in truth.
Kindness is compassion in action borne from love. It puts others first, it willingly risks, and it absorbs the cost. Kindness will cost you, but the alternative is far more costly.
Listen to how a Scottish minister from the 1800s named Robert Murray M’Cheyne put it:
“I fear there are some Christians among you to whom Christ will not say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ Your haughty dwelling rises in the midst of thousands who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost. You heave a sigh, perhaps, at a distance; but you do not visit them.
Ah, my dear friends! I am concerned for the poor, but more for you! I don’t know what Christ will say to you in the great day. You seem to be Christians and yet you don’t care for his poor. Oh, what a change will pass upon you as you enter the gates of heaven! You will be saved, but that will be all. There will be no abundant entrance for you, for ‘he that sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly.’
I fear there are many hearing me who may know well that they are not Christians because they do not love to give. To give largely and liberally—not grudging at all—requires a new heart; an old heart would rather part with its lifeblood than its money. O my friends! Enjoy your money—make the most of it—give none away, for I can tell you: you will be beggars throughout eternity.”
I read that quote because I don’t have the guts or the personal track record of kindness to say it myself. I look at my own life, at my own stinginess. I’d rather part with my lifeblood than my money. I hear Jesus say, “It’s more blessed to give than to receive,” but my life seems to reveal that I don’t believe it very much. I need a new heart, how about you?
The story continues. v35, the Samaritan has to leave, but says, “when I return—meaning, I’m coming back—when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.”
Here’s the last thing we see, and I’ll mention it briefly:
4. Kindness follows up.
Kindness sticks around for the long-haul. It doesn’t just do its good deed for the day then walk away. No, it continues to build relationship and goes deeper than just throwing money at something from a distance.
Quick recap of what kindness is and what it does: Kindness is compassion in action borne from love for God and neighbor. Kindness puts others first, it willingly risks, it absorbs the cost and follows up.
After telling this story, Jesus asks the lawyer a question in v36:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 [And] the man replies, “The one who showed kindness to him.” So Jesus tells him, “Go and do likewise.”
“If you want to inherit eternal life, here’s the standard,” Jesus says, “You have to love God with everything that you are, you have to love your neighbor as yourself, and that love will sink down so inside of you that you’ll be moved with compassion as you come across the needs of others, which will result in kindness to all you come in contact with: whether or not you’re of the same social class, socio-economic status, tax bracket, skin color, political affiliation, or religious belief system.”
Do you see just how impossible this standard is to maintain in our own power?
Like the lawyer, we try to box in God’s law by justifying ourselves, asking, “who really is my neighbor?” But Jesus says, “everybody.” That person who hates you, that person you can’t stand, that person who dares to vote differently or identifies different sexually that you would permit as biblical, Jesus says. Kindness knows no limit because love knowns no limit and if the love of God is in you, your love for others will know no bounds.
Place yourself in the shoes of the man who was beaten and left for dead.
If you were in a financial crunch with no work, would it matter to you whether it was Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton in office cutting you a welfare check? If you were completely devoid of hope and suicidal because you had no friend in the world, would you turn down friendship with Caitlyn Jenner because you didn’t agree with her lifestyle? If you were hanging on the edge of a cliff and someone with a turban on their head from my father’s homeland of Syria came to pull you up, would you slap his hand away because you don’t agree with his religion?
Flip the relationship around now. Someone who believes and acts differently than you is in dire need. What does it matter who the person is? Kindness puts others first, it risks, it absorbs the cost, and it follows up, and as Jesus says in Matthew 25, “Your kindness to all—even to the least of these—is kindness to me.”
When we learn to live in light of Christ’s Kingdom and values, the world flips on its head. It’s like that 4th Century Roman Emperor Julian said: “Nothing has contributed to the progress of the superstitions of these Christians as their kindness to strangers.”
If you asked Julian “what gave Christianity its power?” he didn’t say it was their worship, even though that was there. It wasn’t their fellowship or small group bible study, either. He says: the Jews take care of the Jewish poor, Greeks take care of the Greek poor, the Romans take care of the Roman poor, but these Christians are unbelievable: they take care of everybody.
Julian said it himself: “Nothing has given christians more power in culture than kindness,” because what gave christianity its teeth, was kindness.
So, we have to ask ourselves the question: “Why aren’t christians today impacting our culture like that?”
It seems the answer is staring us straight in the face.
Okay, so what are we going to do about this? Two choices, really: Repent and change, or remain the same. There are two ways to respond when you hear truth. Either repent—that is, confess your sin to God and let him change you—or walk away and stay the same.
James 1:22-24 tells us “Don’t just listen to God’s word. DO what it says.” If you don’t, James continues, that’d be like looking in a mirror, seeing you have spinach in your teeth, and walking away without doing anything about it.
For those of us who listen to this sermon today and choose to remain the exact same, James calls us “fools.” And like Solomon put it in Proverbs 26:11, you know you’re a fool if you keep going back to your foolishness, just like a dog goes back to his vomit.
Which choice will you make today? Repent and change, or remain the same?
It’s not guilt that changes us. After a sermon like this, it’s easy to say: “Okay, I’m going to be kinder now.” And you’ll last two or three days. Maybe two or three weeks. Some of you maybe have been going two or three months or even years in trying to be kinder. And here’s the thing, you’ve probably done an all right job, but eventually, you’ll slip up. Eventually, you’ll revert back to being unkind, or you’ll begin to reserve your kindness for those of your own choosing.
We all need to realize that just like the lawyer, Jesus has us trapped. But his traps are always and only for our good. God’s standard is nothing short of perfect love, to love others as much as we love ourselves, to love God even more than that. We cannot do it! We can’t! Try it. Try to love someone for one week in your own power and you’ll fail eventually. The only way we can learn to love in this way is to see that we’ve been loved in this way, first.
1 John 4:19 tells us “We love because God first loved us.”
The only thing that will change you, the only thing that will give you eternal life and teach you to live a life marked by kindness is to see the love of Jesus.
Looks at this: the word “compassion” that the Samaritan felt for the man in need is a word used more than any other word to describe the emotional state of Jesus. He was moved with compassion, so he wept for the city. He was moved with compassion, so he healed the sick. He was moved with compassion, so he fed the multitudes. He was moved with compassion, so he comforted those who wept. His compassion always led to kindness.
It’s not guilt that will result in lasting change. Romans 2:4 says “it’s only God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.” It’s his kindness that changes us—and it’s kindness that will change the world. I want you to see the kindness of Jesus now:
1. Jesus put others first by leaving the comforts of heaven for the rags of earth.
2. Jesus willingly risked everything by putting himself in the hands of angry sinners who in turn hung him on a cross to die.
3. Jesus absorbed the cost fully, because though he was rich, he became poor so that by his poverty, we might become rich. He bore our sins in his body, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.
4. And finally, Jesus follows up. He doesn’t leave us alone as orphans but places in us his Spirit, so that we too would bear the fruit of Kindness in our lives for all to enjoy, that we would learn to put others first, to willingly risk, to absorb the cost, and follow up.
The only thing that will motivate you to live a life of kindness is experiencing the kindness of Jesus first. When you do, it will change you from the inside out. Embrace his kindness, and your heart will be so transformed by it that you won’t be able to help but extend kindness to all.
I was at home with the kids on Friday morning and for whatever reason, I was a bit of a grouch. Just short-tempered and not really in the most playful mood (obviously last week’s sermon on Patience hadn’t really sunk in yet). My two-year old Annie could tell something was up, so she brings over a bowl & spoon, and says, “Daddy, I make you eggs.” Thanks, kid. Girl knows a way to a man’s heart.
But then she says this: “Daddy, I want to serd (sic) you.”
It took me a second. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell with Toddlers what they’re trying to say, but given the context, this one was crystal clear. She was saying, “Daddy, I want to serve you.” She could see I was upset, or at least a little crabby. But in her childlike innocence, she says, “I want to serve you.”
I challenge you to keep those words in front of you this week—“I want to serve you.” In your friendships, at work, in your marriages and families and wherever your week takes you, let those words shape your attitude and actions: “I want to serve you.”
When an individual does an act of kindness, it’s a beautiful moment;
but when a group of people partner and serve together, it can begin a movement.
The Salvation Army was built on “I want to serve you.” It began with a vision to bring salvation to the poor, destitute, and hungry by meeting both their “physical and spiritual needs,” and now they have a presence in over 125 countries. They run charity shops, shelters for the homeless, and provide disaster relief and humanitarian aid to developing countries.
Right now, the Kansas City Salvation Army is in dire need of donations, specifically nonperishable foods. As one way to join together as a church and serve the needs of our city, we will be collecting canned goods, peanut butter, whatever leftover ramen packs you’ve got in your dorm still as you’re cleaning it out, all of it! We’ll have a tub in the back between now and the last Sunday of June to collect all the food we bring.
I’ve seen our young church already step up in amazing ways. We started off our first month with #31goodthings which was all about individual acts of kindness.
Three times already this year, different groups in our church have prepared meals and fed families with sick kiddos in the Ronald McDonald Room at Children’s Mercy Hospital. I know care packages (stuffed with water bottles, granola bars, and socks) have been put together and distributed to the homeless. A group went just the other day to donate blood at the Community Blood Center, and in fact, we’re planning to host a blood drive together later this summer here at the church.
I’m not saying these things to brag. I just want to highlight some of the good things we’ve been a part of so far in the last few months so we can continue to build on them.
We set aside some money at the beginning of the year to start a food pantry of our own, but we’re not in the position building-wise to do this just yet. So as a church, we plan to give $200 to the Salvation Army toward feeding the hungry and clothing the homeless, along with all the nonperishable foods we collect between now and the end of June.
Because when an individual does an act of kindness, it’s a beautiful moment;
but when a group of people partner and serve together, it can begin a movement.
If the kindness of God could change us,
then the kindness of the church will change the world.