So God called into existence his creation and then, according to Genesis 1:28, he said to us humans, "I'm putting you in charge."
That makes us caretakers of all which God has given to us. That includes the Earth and all its natural resources. It involves the caring for our bodies, how we use our skills and gifts, how we apportion our time, what we do with our life, and how we affect others' lives. It has a lot to do with caring for the hungry of the world.
This is good timing for this scripture. Our country - actually the whole world - is in a financial crisis, and it is the ones at the bottom who feel it the worst.
The shelves in food banks around the country and in the world already are depleted.
We are God's caretakers of creation, the stewards of the Kingdom of God.
Jesus tells us this parable about judgment. He says, "... whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it for me" (Matthew 25:40).
The religious people of Jesus' time thought they were going to be complimented for their faithfulness to the law. Instead, Jesus said, "But you didn't feed me when I was hungry." To feed a hungry person, he continued, was the same as feeding him.
Who is Christ? Christ is everyone. And there will be those who say, "But master, if we had only known that it was you, we would have responded."
That is precisely the point.
So this parable tells us that in the end, we won't be separated out not for the bad we did, but for the kindness we did not show. We need to look upon each person as though he or she was Christ. Kindness is the criteria by which we will be judged. It is not the bad we do that will keep us out of heaven (we have been forgiven for our sins); rather, it is the good we fail to do that that will make us a sheep or a goat.
Mother Theresa was asked how she could minister to people with such horrid illnesses, and she replied, "I just imagine they are Jesus."
Have you done something thoughtful for someone else this week? Then you have done something thoughtful for Jesus; a word of kindness or encouragement, a visit at the hospital or a gift to someone in need. You did it unto Jesus. Surprised? Most of us are as unaware of the importance of our good deeds as were the sheep in Jesus' parable.
I'd like to suggest that during this holiday season - you consider an alternative to giving expensive gifts to family and friends - and instead, give to your favorite charity in their name.
In Jesus' name. Amen!
Bob Woods is the pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ in Craig.