“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.”
Explanation and Commentary of Matthew 25:40
There is nothing in the Bible that would suggest that it is possible to separate love for God from love for people. We love and worship an invisible God. He has forbidden us to make an image of himself, but he has put his image into mankind. If we would see him and serve him, we must see and serve our fellow man.
But beyond that, we must see and serve “the least of these” because in this we can better know that our service is rendered to God for love of him and for his glory. Serving those who are of worldly importance, especially those who can return the favor (Lk 14:12), is not wrong, but the motive for such service could always be in question, especially if the kind of service that Jesus is describing never occurs.
In the parable of the sheep and the goats, neither the sheep nor the goats expected the response of the master. The sheep are surprised that they were serving Christ by serving the least of these. The goats were surprised that they were failing Christ by failing the least of these. The goal here would be to do all things and render all service to all people for the glory of God and the sake of the Gospel.
Breaking Down the Key Parts of Matthew 25:40
#1 “The King will reply, truly I tell you,”
The King is Jesus at the judgment “in his glory…on his glorious throne” (Mt 25:31). The most important aspect of his judgment will be the opening of the Book of Life. The sheep will have their names written there (Rev 20:12). The goats will not. This signifies belief vs unbelief. Rather than see what follows as a kind of salvation by works, one should understand that true believers will live their lives in Christ and unto him.
#2 “whatever you did…”
Jesus said of the sheep, “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 visit me” (Mt 25:35-36). The goats, the unbelievers failed to do the very same.
#3 “…for one of the least of these…”
There are few who will not help a great or important person if given the chance. But the humble will stoop for those who cannot return the favor (Lk 14:12). Christ is careful to align himself with these similarly to how he upholds children.
#4 “…brothers and sisters of mine,”
It seems he primarily means Christians. But there is a sense that he also means nonbelievers who are in need as well. We are certainly taught that God sends the sun and rain on the wicked as well as the good and that we should be like our Father in Heaven, even blessing our enemies (Mt 5:44).
#5 “you did for me.”
Once again, the invisible God makes himself present in his created beings. Jesus dwells by his Holy Spirit in the human temple of the Church (1 Cor 3:16). To love him and serve him requires loving and serving his people, especially “the least of these.”
Here is an exceptional short video breaking down the book of Matthew, which included Matthew 25.
Biblical Translations of Matthew 25:40
“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.’”
“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!’”
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
“And the King shall answer and say unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.'”
“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.’”
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.