By Brannon Howse
The Scripture: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting 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 take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, 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, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch 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 everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
The Twist: These verses are often used to push the idea of social justice. We saw how Acts 2 is similarly used to promote socialism or communism. The twist of Matthew 25 is pushed a little further to claim that Christians should be involved in social justice and providing social services for the unbelieving world.
As we untwist this scripture, let me first explain that I am not saying Christians should avoid being involved in good works when proclaiming the Gospel. The Bible says we are to be salt and light, and the light is the Gospel. That’s what we shine forth—the Gospel. But much of what we see people promoting today is only a social gospel. As I explain in detail in Religious Trojan Horse, this “gospel” was started by Walter Rauschenbusch and Harry F. Ward, and it is merely a mask for socialism. The social justice focus is all about the redistribution of wealth.
I have seen news reports about churches that cancel their Sunday services so they can go out and rake leaves or paint houses, but that’s not what the Lord’s Day is supposed to be about. It is meant as a time to focus on the Lord and the study of His Word. It’s about believers coming together to exercise spiritual gifts for the edification and equipping of the saints and the worship of the Lord. Many Christians participate in social justice and use Acts 2 and Matthew 25 as examples to say, “This is the kind of thing we should be doing.”
I have no problem if a church wants to use something like a food pantry or a clothes closet as a platform for sharing the Gospel. That’s wonderful. I’m not criticizing that. But if we simply go out and dig wells, educate people, and treat pandemic diseases (as Rick Warren espouses) without presenting the Gospel, we’re wrong. I truly wonder how Rick Warren can be standing for, proclaiming, and defending the Gospel when he is involved in ecumenical activities with Catholics, Muslims, and other such groups—just for the sake of social justice. Such spiritual enterprises are a clear violation of 2 John 9-11, Romans 16:17, 2 Corinthians 6:14, and many other passages.
There is not one specific verse in the New Testament that says we are to be giving away our limited resources, our limited capital, to unbelievers. The Church isn’t called to end poverty, pandemic diseases, or homelessness. In fact, Jesus said that the poor will always be with us.
Besides, how well has the socialistic redistribution of wealth worked here in the United States? We’ve spent billions of dollars in the “War on Poverty,” and yet we have more poverty than ever before. Several 2013 reports documented that 48 percent of Americans are on some kind of government entitlement program—nearly half of all Americans! Even with the government taxing us at a huge rate to fight the war on poverty, poverty is actually worse than ever. Clearly redistribution of wealth is not working.
Many of these problems are heart issues. Poverty is largely due to sin and moral relativism. Psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple, author of Life at the Bottom: The Worldview That Makes the Underclass, has spent years treating the poor in a slum hospital and prison in England. While Dr. Dalrymple’s is not a Christian book, per se, he nevertheless arrives at the astounding conclusion that a misshapen worldview accounts for the plight of today’s poor in Western countries:
Patterns of behavior emerge—in the case of the underclass, almost entirely self-destructive ones. Day after day I hear of the same violence, the same neglect and abuse of children, the same broken relationships, the same victimization by crime, the same nihilism, the same dumb despair. If everyone is a unique individual, how do patterns such as this emerge?
Dalrymple later answers his own question:
Welfare states have existed for substantial periods of time without the development of a modern underclass: an added ingredient is obviously necessary. This ingredient is to be found in the realm of ideas. Human behavior cannot be explained without reference to the meaning and intentions people give their acts and omissions; and everyone has a Weltanschauung, a worldview, whether he knows it or not. It is the ideas my patients have that fascinate—and, to be honest, appall—me: for they are the source of their misery.
While there are a few true victims of poverty—children who suffer from their parents’ bad choices (which all too many choose to repeat as adults)—the blame for poverty does not lie solely with those who make lifestyle decisions that lead to their status. Dr. Dalrymple asserts that the great facilitators of chronic indigence are liberal humanists and their if-it-feels-good-do-it worldview: “most of the social pathology exhibited by the underclass has its origin in ideas that have filtered down from the intelligentsia.”
“Intelligentsia” is a synonym for the liberal, humanistic elite—educrats and social engineers. Propagation of the liberal, morally relativistic worldview has raged through the underclass most ruinously in the form of glaring sexual promiscuity. Remember what the humanist manifestos have to say about moral relativism, sex, and the pursuit of pleasure:
• Humanist Manifesto I: “the quest for the good life is still the central task for mankind.”
• Humanist Manifesto II: “We strive for the good life, here and now… neither do we wish to prohibit, by law or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered ‘evil’.”
Dalrymple articulates the agonizing consequences reaped by the underclass because they embraced, however unwittingly, the worldview of humanists:
Of nothing is this more true than the system of sexual relations that now prevails in the underclass, with the result that 70 percent of the births in my hospital are now illegitimate (a figure that would approach 100 percent if it were not for the presence in the area of a large number of immigrants from the Indian subcontinent). …The connection between this loosening and the misery of my patients is so obvious that it requires considerable intellectual sophistication (and dishonesty) to be able to deny it. The climate of moral, cultural, and intellectual relativism—a relativism that began as a mere fashionable plaything for intellectuals—has been successfully communicated to those least able to resist its devastating practical effects.
Do ideas have consequences? Does your worldview matter? Liberals can enjoy the distinct satisfaction of seeing just how radically their “forward-thinking” ideas affect the world in which people live day by day.
What’s more, in talking about the poor, it is crucial that we understand the biblical definition of “poor.” In the Bible, someone who was poor did not have a coat or a place to lay his or her head. The Bible also speaks at times of the unsaved as poor. This is a reference to being spiritually poor. What we call “poor” in America today, though, is not poor in the biblical sense. The facts noted below refer to people defined as poor by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:
Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.
Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.
Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.
The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)
Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.
Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.
Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.
Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.
Redistributing wealth doesn’t end poverty.
While I believe in bringing the Gospel and material assistance to the truly needy, the reality is that most of today’s neo-evangelicals are only interested in promoting their socialist agenda, not in helping those truly in need—and they are certainly not interested in sharing a biblical gospel. And many “Christian” social activists neglect the fact that there’s not one verse in the Bible that says the Church should be giving its money to poor people without their having any commitment to the Gospel. Some will argue that the Old Testament nation of Israel allows for that, but Israel is a totally different situation. There, you’re dealing with a theocracy, and their tax, as I pointed out earlier in this book, was their tithe. The Israelites were to care for those inside their borders so as to be an example to the world.
But we are now in the Church age, and we are not Israel. I do not believe that replacement theology—the belief that the Church has replaced Israel—is biblical. So when we talk about the Church today, the New Testament is clear that we should not be giving away our money to the unsaved through redistribution of wealth and social programs. To give water bottles to people who are on their way to hell, as a friend of mine likes to say, accomplishes nothing. Giving them nice clothes and an education does not profit them when they stand before the Lord on Judgment Day if they’re not saved.
Yet there are people who construe Matthew 25:34-40 to say, “This is the mandate of the Church, to go and visit people who are hungry and who are in need of a cup of cold water. Jesus said we should do these things.” They thereby justify a social justice or social gospel agenda.
So let’s go back to the context and untwist this wrong-headed reading. Then I’ll also point out some influential folks who use this scripture out of context. Let’s take Matthew 25:34-40 step by step. First:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father...”
Jesus is talking to Christians, or what would accurately called “tribulation saints,” as He called them “blessed by My Father.” These are individuals who were on earth during a portion of the tribulation.
“...take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited Me in; I needed clothes and you clothed Me; I was sick and you looked after Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”
Then the righteous will answer Him...
Here’s the reply of the tribulation saints:
“Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and invite You in, or needing clothes and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”
The King will reply, “Truly, I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine, you did for Me.”
Did you notice the key phrase: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of Mine”? Jesus is talking to believers about believers. He’s not talking to believers involved in a social justice program or redistribution of wealth to unbelievers. He’s specifically talking about believers ministering to believers who were being persecuted during the tribulation. Look at the context we see in Matthew 25:31-33:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.
Jesus is setting up His millennial kingdom, and He is separating the sheep from the goats. He’s parsing true converts from false converts, and in the process, Jesus commends these believers for ministering to other believers who were being persecuted and who were in prison because of Christ. He is honoring their proclamation of the Gospel.
Churches had better be very careful because we have only so many resources that should go first and foremost for the proclamation of the Gospel and to providing for our own families. First Timothy 5:8 says someone who does not provide for his own family is worse than an infidel, worse than an unbeliever, worse than a pagan. So we are commanded to provide for our families physically, monetarily, and spiritually. We use our limited resources to store up treasure in heaven by fulfilling the Great Commission, preaching the Gospel, and making disciples. With our limited resources, we should fund the Gospel, send missionaries, support Christian broadcasting, and endow biblical seminaries to train godly men to be pastors. These are all part of fulfilling the Great Commission.
When we go out and give money away to people, without tying the Gospel to our actions, it is nothing but a waste of money. Even if the money buys poor people nicer clothes, what good will that do them when they stand before the Lord? If the money gives them an education, or ends their illiteracy, how will that help them on Judgment Day, if you have not given them the Gospel? But too often Christians say, “We need to go do these good deeds, and then later we’ll give the Gospel.” Yet the obvious problem is that a lot of the groups who do these things never provide a clear, biblical Gospel message.
Now, let’s look at some of the folks who use Matthew 25 out of context—for starters, a group known as The Evangelical Immigration Roundtable. There are many things wrong with this particular group. Some of the people they are involved with have been documented by Worldview Weekend, as well as others like Breitbart News, to work with known Marxists in accomplishing their goals and objectives. That in itself is an “odd” development, because the Communist Party USA has been pushing for illegal immigrants to become voting citizens. The party believes that if illegals gain the right to vote, Communists can win them over to vote for a Marxist agenda and thereby win every U.S. election from now on. So don’t you think it’s rather alarming to have “evangelicals” standing next to known Marxists, pushing for this immigration program? They don’t like to call it amnesty, but that’s what it is.
The Evangelical Immigration Roundtable (EIR) has really put its money where its mouth is in regard to this issue. The organization produced a public service announcement with the support of people like Max Lucado, the general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Church in Chicago, Richard Mouw (the former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, an extremely liberal seminary), Reverend Samuel Rodriguez (whose organization represents Hispanic groups), Leith Anderson (president of the National Association of Evangelicals), Richard Land (who at the time was president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission), Joel Hunter (senior pastor of Northland Church and president of Wheaton College), and Jim Wallis (a well-known neo-Marxist). These people use Matthew 25 as the basis for saying we need immigration reform! Supposedly, we need to accept all these illegal immigrants as citizens, and Jesus would have us do this, according to Matthew 25.
What’s really sad about this is that it is promoted by pastors like Max Lucado. Is Lucado so ill-equipped that he doesn’t know the context of Matthew 25? Does the general superintendent of the Wesleyan Church not know the background of this chapter in Matthew? And what about Pastor Bill Hybels? Richard Mouw? Reverend Samuel Rodriguez? Leith Anderson? Richard Land? Pastor Joel Hunter? Is it possible these prominent Christian leaders are not discerning enough to know that Matthew 25 does not apply to illegal immigration? If the so-called “leaders” of evangelicalism don’t know how to study the Bible in context, should we be shocked that so many sitting in the church pews or in their classrooms or that read their books and attend their seminars don’t know how to read the Bible in context? Yet here is the transcript of this EIR commercial, being read by the people I listed above:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him. And He will separate people, one from another, as a Shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He’ll put the sheep on the right, the goats on His left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, “Come, you who are blessed by My Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me food. I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me.”
I was a stranger. I was a stranger. I was a stranger. [Foreign language]
“I was a stranger, and you invited Me in. I needed clothes, and you clothed Me. I was sick, and you visited Me. I was in prison, and you came to Me.”
Then the righteous will answer Him saying, “Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You? Or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You in, or needing clothes and clothed You?”
Obviously, there’s something more going on here with the endorsers of this issue. It is a prime example of how people twist Scripture for their own agendas. The temptation to do so is something we all have to be careful about (including me!), but we must never take Scripture and twist it to suit our own ends. God calls us to be faithful with how we handle His truth.
Now, let me share another example with you. Joe Scarborough on MSNBC talks with neo-Marxist Reverend Jim Wallis about Matthew 25 in an interview about social justice. Here is the transcript:
Scarborough: Now you know, we’ve had this conversation before on set here with other religious leaders, talking about how the modern Christian movement is changing, especially among the young. Even conservative—ideological, conservative, young Christians are what I would call Matthew 25 Christians—worrying about the poor, feeding the poor, clothing the naked, visiting people in hospitals and jails. And this is, again, this is a quiet revolution in the Church that’s happened over the past 20 years that I think a lot of people in mainstream media have not seen. And Jim’s exactly right. Conservatives, moderates, liberals are coming together.
Wallis: You know, Joe’s right about the Matthew 25 Christians. Joe, the text came up yesterday in the Roosevelt Room. The president said, “We can’t let the shared sacrifice be borne mostly by the least of these.” So, when he said “the least of these,” we all knew that he knew Matthew 25. . . . Right? Where Jesus said, “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to Me.” So, it’s nice when the president knows the text here and motivates us to come to the Roosevelt.
Again, Matthew 25 is used out of context to push social justice.
The real meaning of this scripture is confirmed by other passages in the Bible. It reflects the need for Christians to minister to fellow Christians within the New Testament Church. The Church is those who have placed their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. When people do this they automatically become a member of the New Testament Church.
And when did the Church age start? Before Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, He said that that He must go so the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, could come and indwell believers. The Holy Ghost came on Pentecost as described in Acts 2:1, and that was the day the New Testament Church was born. The Church age will run from Pentecost to the Day of the Rapture.
Scripture is very clear that people inside the New Testament Church are not to be lacking in necessities. We are to minister to them and care for them. James 1:27 instructs us: “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
Even in the case of widows, though, if they have a family member, the family member is responsible to care for them, not the Church. However, if the family member is not a believer and will not take seriously the biblical responsibility to care for that widow, then the Church steps up and does it, according to 1 Timothy 5:4-8:
But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show piety at home and to repay their parents; for this is good and acceptable before God. Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. And these things command, that they may be blameless. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
And check out James 2:14-16: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?” In other words, works are not the root of your salvation; works are the fruit of your salvation. James continues:
Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
So: Believers are to care for believers. Matthew 25 teaches us who are within the Church to love one another by meeting the needs of each. To say that Christians are to be involved in social justice and that Jesus was commending the social justice agenda in Matthew 25 is an abominable twist.
Copyright 2014 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.