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Summary: How can we help those around us? Do we see those who are hurting around us, or do we walk around them?

Are you a Sheep or Goat?

Matthew 25:31-46

August 26, 2012

I remember when I was in seminary I would have some classes in which the professor would tell us we would have a “take home final.” Whenever I heard those words I was filled with great joy. But there were students who were not very happy, they were terrified.

To me, it’s a no-brainer — who wouldn’t want a take home exam? There’s no time crunch. There’s unlimited access to resources for doing research. There’s the ability to modify, or even completely change, responses after thinking about them for a while.

But the students who dread the take home final know there’s a down side to all those benefits. With all that extra time and unlimited information, there are greater expectations. With a take home final there is never a firm answer to how much more the professor expects.

Instead of a quick couple paragraphs, obviously a longer, more extensive, more exhaustive answer is required. With access to unlimited resources who is to say how many examples are “enough” to prove your point? A final exam given in a closed class room for 1 or 2 hours puts all students at the same advantages and disadvantages. It’s a level playing field. A “take home final” forces students to take their exam in their individual real words — on their terms, whatever that may be.

Why is it that we are always warned “don’t take your work home with you”? That caution is not about teachers correcting papers on the living room couch or real estate agents updating their listings online while watching Sunday night football. “Don’t take your work home with you” is our attempt to draw a line between who we are in one part of our life versus who we are in another part of our lives. “Don’t’ take your work home with you” tries to disconnect what we do 9-5 from who we are 5-9.

For Jesus’ disciples that’s impossible. Jesus makes it clear that the Christian life comes with a “take home final.”

Maybe you’ve read the story about the man who was walking along the beach in the early morning and he noticed a another man ahead of him picking up starfish and placing them back in the water. The man asked the other man what he was doing. The man picking up starfish said the stranded starfish would die if left in the morning sun. The other man explained, “But the beach goes on for miles and miles, and there are millions of starfish. How can you make a difference?” The man looked at the starfish in his hand, threw it into the safety of the waves, and said, “It makes a difference to this one!”

There are billions of people on this planet. Nearly two billion of them are desperately poor. One billion are hungry. Some live in your neighborhood; others live in jungles you can’t find, with names you can’t pronounce. Some curl up in cardboard boxes to stay warm at night. Some walk for 3 hours every day just to get water we wouldn’t drink. Some brought their problems upon themselves; others inherited the mess; while still others seem to be victims. Add to that earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes and other natural disasters, and here we are, in the midst of it all.

Life can feel a lot like that beach sometimes, can’t it? Yet, despite all of that, our take home final may be titled, Sheep and Goats, with a subheading — We were made to make a difference.

I’m believe most people want their lives to matter. They want to make a difference, a real and relevant difference. We want to make the world or our corner of the world a better place. But you look around and you feel like that man standing on the beach. How can your effort make any difference?

Peter, Andrew, James, John, Paul, Barnabas, Pricilla and Aquilla, Pheobe and all the rest—they stepped up to the challenge and made a difference that changed the history of humanity. What began on Pentecost with the 120 disciples spilled into every corner of the world. We’re writing the next chapter. And we’ll continue to do so, until Christ comes.

Jesus spoke about the day He returns and said this in one of His last messages. It’s a difficult message for many. It is found in Matthew 25:31-46, and is subtitled, Sheep and Goats. Listen to what Jesus said ~

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

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