The Biblical parable of the sheep and the goats is used to illustrate many different points. Some preachers teach on the separation between the two as an indication that believers are to be set apart from the ways of the world and choose a holier path. Others focus on the warning that failures can lead to destruction. One theme that particularly stands out in this passage is the focus on the importance of compassion. Today, the methods that people of faith use to care for others may have expanded, but the exhortation is the same. Here are some ways to show compassion to others who are in need.
"I was hungry, and you fed me."
There are millions of people worldwide who are hungry, but you probably don't have to look much farther than your own city to find someone to help. Homelessness and poverty make the access to food that many people take for granted a challenge. Look for organizations in your area that do things to fight hunger:
- Food pantries
- Soup kitchens
- School lunch support
- Community gardens
"I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink."
When you want clean drinking water, you simply walk into your kitchen and turn on the faucet. It's not so easy to come by in other places around the globe. Consider a donation or a fundraiser for organizations such as charity: water and Water.org, both of which work to connect those in developing countries with fresh, safe water to drink. You may even find places closer to home. Look for initiatives in low-income neighborhoods where water access has been shut off to see how you can get involved.
"I was a stranger, and you sheltered me."
The immigration debate in the United States tends to pit personal safety against hospitality. Of course, it is not wrong to want to keep one's own family secure. This parable makes it pretty clear, though, that turning a blind eye to those who need a safe place to stay is not in line with the gospel of Jesus. Working toward immigration reform so that the country can be in a better position to accept refugees and others who want to move here is one way to reach out.
"I was naked, and you clothed me."
Donating extra clothing and shoes that you no longer wear or need can help in several ways. It may give people who don't have a lot of money some choices of gently used items to supplement their own wardrobes. It can also provide immediate relief to those in safe haven shelters or those who have lost their belongings in a fire or natural disaster. These donations offer an opportunity for you to use your excess to meet someone else's need.
"I was sick or in prison, and you comforted me."
You may think there is not a lot you can do for people who are ill or imprisoned unless you are a doctor or a lawyer. You can still provide comfort and support to them, though. Write letters or notes of encouragement to those who are separated from their families. Donate to organizations that seek cures for dangerous diseases. Support the efforts of groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Center that fight injustice and work to dismantle systemic inequities within the prison industrial complex.
There are many lessons that you can take away from the parable of the sheep and the goats, but living compassionately is one of the most important. When people of faith look outside their own needs and those of their families to care for people and the world around them, they embrace the spirit of the God they serve.