“So, what did you do today?” My 3-year-old daughter has a funny way of responding to this classic dinnertime question. Instead of telling us what she did in a given day, she’ll start by telling us what she didn’t do.
“Well,” she’ll say, “we didn’t go to the park. We didn’t eat ice cream. And we didn’t see the gorillas at the zoo.”
This response never fails to make me smile. It’s just so silly! Why bother telling people what we didn’t do? The only thing that matters in life is what we do, right?
Jesus says otherwise. He tells us that what we don’t do is just as important as what we do with our lives. Consider Matthew 25:31-46. This section of the Bible is entitled “The final Judgment” and discusses Jesus separating the goats from the sheep i.e. the unbelievers from the believers on judgment day. He turns to the believers and says:
“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 creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”
He commends them for the things they did. He praises them for their actions.
But then he turns to the “goats” and says:
“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
He condemns the unbelievers for the things they didn’t do. He condemns them for their inaction.
If I, like my 3-year-old, recounted my day according to what i didn’t do, it might all too often sound something like this:
I didn’t treat my husband or children very nicely because I was cranky.
I didn’t tell the truth when the woman on the street asked if I had any spare change for her bus fare. I lied and said no because I assumed she was a junky and wanted to keep my spare change for potential future coffee or metered parking fares.
I didn’t accomplish the work I set out to accomplish because I wasted far too much time being lazy surfing facebook and watching tv.
I didn’t share my faith with that other mom at the park even though a prime opportunity to do so arose because I was feeling shy and thought she would think I was crazy.
I didn’t offer to help the person soliciting help while sick or in trouble even though my schedule wasn’t full and I had gifts and talents they desperately needed.
I didn’t give to church or charity this month because I neglected to budget and spent that money on something else first.
Each of these instances may seem like small blunders on my part, but they add up to a whole lot of inaction don’t they? In fact, when I add up all of my daily decisions to do nothing instead of something, to ignore instead of help, to remain silent instead of witness, to live in comfort instead of serve, Jesus could be talking directly to me when addressing “the ‘goats.’” And indeed, I know that without Jesus and his amazing Mercy, I would be amongst the goats on a lifelong journey to hell.
His love and forgiveness have rescued me from that journey, though, and it is that love that motivates me to do and to act. While I fall into the sinful pattern of inaction and beg his forgiveness on a regular basis, I also feel his love compelling me to express my faith in love and kind deeds towards others. Why do I go out of my way to bring meals to new mamas or to rally together breast milk donors for moms in need? Jesus. Why do I give money to church and to charitable organizations? Jesus. Why do I swallow my fear and share my faith with a stranger? Jesus. Why do I donate money or clothes and toys to support a family that has lost everything in a fire? Jesus. Why do I make an effort to care for the earth God has created? Jesus. How am I able to remain calm and loving toward my children when disciplining them at times when they enrage me? That one is definitely Jesus! ;) His love works through me and enables me to do all of the best of the things that I do, as I share that love with others.
Titus 3:5-7 “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
Jesus died on the cross for our sins, rose again, ascended into heaven, and won that salvation for us. But His work didn’t end there. He continues to work through us to spread His grace as Titus goes on to say:
Titus 3:8b “And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”
What we do is important because it is a signal or signpost of our faith. Our actions send a message to others about our beliefs and motivations. As Christians, we represent Christ. We represent what it means to have faith in Christ. What are others learning about Christ and His Love by watching us? What are others experiencing of Christ’s love by interacting with us? Through faith in Him, we are able to act in a way that conveys that Love.
James 2:14-17 “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
If you’re standing at a crossroads, wondering whether you should or shouldn’t do something, consider which choice would best enable you to express your faith. By taking action, would you be able to convey Christ’s Love to someone else? What an opportunity! By remaining inactive, would you be passing up an amazing opportunity to express your faith by following God’s command to love, clothe, and feed those in need? If you answered “yes” to either of these questions, then take action! Go forth and DO and let that faith of yours shine!