The Least of These: An Examination
BY JORDAN SCOTT
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments… Whoever does not love me does not keep my words.” – John 14:15,24
The litmus test of our love for Jesus is whether we obey him. Nothing else determines this. Not our preaching, not our ministry, nothing except obedience to the Lord. If we love Jesus, we will obey him. If we do not obey Jesus, it is because we do not love him. Jesus is not shy about calling out those who are not his, and we shouldn’t be either. The time for claiming love for God while excusing our disobedience with grace is over. Obedience to God is not legalism; it is the true mark that we are indeed His children.
“And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him… whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” – 1 John 2:3-6
There are commands in the Bible that are very hard. Jesus did not hide this from us. From the beginning, Jesus made clear that his followers would be required to obey God and that it would be very costly. On the front end of salvation we were all given the same invitation, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; Matthew 16:24). We all knew that we were going into battle with Jesus at the helm; and like any war, we cannot expect that everyone is going to get out alive. Suffering, persecution, and death have been promised to us; it means we are Christians (2 Timothy 3:12). But some people who do not like the cost of following Jesus have twisted scripture in attempt to release themselves from obedience to Him.
“There are some things in them [Paul’s letters] that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.” – 2 Peter 3:16-17
How often have we, in western nations, been guilty of manipulating scripture to excuse ourselves from obeying clear and simple commands? Our aversion to costly gospel proclamation is a great dishonor to our persecuted brothers and sisters in restricted nations. How painful it must be for them who consider it a joy to be worthy of persecution for Jesus’ sake, to share the name Christian with men who would rather disobey God than suffer for Him. It’s not right to bear the name Christian lightly.
No more exalting nationalism, politics, or self-preservation over our responsibility to God and to unbelieving people. If we know the right thing to do and do not do it, for us it is sin (James 4:17). We have two options: Either repent and obey Jesus, or do not claim we love Him. It is no longer acceptable for Christians to shirk our responsibility to the gospel because we love our own lives more than we love Jesus. If we continue to love our own lives more than we love (obey) Jesus, our consciences will become seared (If they are not already), our hearts will grow cold (If they are not already), and we will found unworthy of Christ (Matthew 10:34-39). If we continue to disobey our Savior, it may be discovered that we are not the sheep we fancy ourselves to be, but rather goats that will be cursed and separated from God eternally.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all the nations, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And He will place the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…
“Then He will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” – Matthew 25:31-46
If it is true that our love for Jesus is gauged by our obedience to Him, then how we handle “the least of these” may be the clearest indicator of whether we truly love Jesus. And if we find that we are not obeying Jesus, we have a need to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith.
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5-6