What on earth are you talking about? Read this passage from the Bible.
31. "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33. and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35. 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, 36. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' 37. Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38. And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39. And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' 40. And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' 41. Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42. for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44. Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' 45. Then he will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' 46. And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
Jesus sends to Hell the very people whose actions precisely fit those of people who today call themselves conservative Christians.
While conservative Christians do give to charity, and many I know are quite generous.
But, we’re not talking about their private charitable giving, but speaking of political choices and activism, and this passage from Matthew does not apply only to acts of individual charity.
So, where does Matthew 25 say or even imply that it only applies to individual actions of a charitable nature?
The proper view is, you are individually held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one acts of charity or lack thereof, but you are also individually
held to account under Matthew 25 for how the actions you take influence your society in its treatment of the "least of these."
In the analysis directly following, such assertions will be backed up by (1) plain meaning and logic -- analysis of the text itself; and (2) Papal teachings -- citing of relevant elements of the Catholic Church's official written social doctrine.
So let's first look at the Biblical text itself.
Jesus separates the goats and sheep by nations
, not by individuals.
Moreover, when the "righteous" -- the sheep -- address Jesus, they ask "Lord, when did we
see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?" When the "cursed" -- the goats --address Jesus, they also speak collectively: "Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?" The righteous and the cursed do not individually ask "When did I…" or even "When did each of us…"
It is true that "nations
" as used in Matthew 25 may not mean nation-states as we know them today, but it's still a collective noun. That, together with the "we
" language, certainly doesn't militate against responsibility to influence collective action, or excuse its failure.
This textual analysis is backed up by another factor: should a passage such as Matthew 25 really be interpreted narrowly so as to avoid responsibility? To do so would be a perversion of the Golden Rule itself.
Having a narrow, stingy reading of Matthew 25 is, to put it more bluntly, absurd. Would anyone seriously maintain that Jesus would say it’s okay for society as a whole to let people suffer and die, as long as some members give some money to charity?
Even the social doctrine of the Church affirms this textual analysis and examination of Biblical antecedents, and similarly makes clear that individual acts of charity are not sufficient to satisfy Matthew 25.
Let's go through the reasoning process behind the Church's position:
Even the anti-communist, anti-socialist, even anti-welfare-state Pope John Paul II has strongly and repeatedly reaffirmed the Church's Matthew 25-based "preferential option for the poor":
As far as the Church is concerned, the social message of the Gospel must not be considered a theory, but above all else a basis and a motivation for action... Christ's words "as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Mt 25:40) were not intended to remain a pious wish, but were meant to become a concrete life commitment... Love for others, and in the first place love for the poor, in whom the Church sees Christ himself, is made concrete in the promotion of justice... in Centesimus Annus.
In this effort, individual acts of charity are not enough:
This constant dedication to the poor and disadvantaged emerges in the Church's social teaching, which ceaselessly invites the Christian community to a commitment to overcome every form of exploitation and oppression. It is a question not only of alleviating the most serious and urgent needs through individual actions here and there, but of uncovering the roots of evil and proposing initiatives to make social, political and economic structures more just and fraternal.
(In Ecclesia in America)
The reason individual charity is not enough, and that collective political action is required, are the "political and economic structures" referred to by the Pope:
the decisions which either accelerate or slows down the development of peoples are really political in character. In order to overcome the misguided mechanisms mentioned earlier and to replace them with new ones which will be more just and in conformity with the common good of humanity, an effective political will is needed."
So harmful are these structures that they can even be called "structures of sin":
If the present situation can be attributed to difficulties of various kinds, it is not out of place to speak of "structures of sin"... "Sin" and "structures of sin" are categories which are seldom applied to the situation of the contemporary world. However, one cannot easily gain a profound understanding of the reality that confronts us unless we give a name to the root of the evils which afflict us.
from Solicitudo Rei Socialis
The Vatican itself will go beyond charitable work and seek to influence governmental and international bodies:
In sum: you are individually held to account under Matthew 25 for your individual one-on-one acts of charity or the lack thereof, but you are also individually
held to account under Matthew 25 for how the actions you take influence your society in its treatment of the "least of these" " the "social, political and economic" choices to which the Pope refers. (And no, it meaning doesn’t say government programs are the only answer. Quite the contrary.)
Even if Matthew 25 requires going beyond individual charity, conservative Christians have plans to help the poor, and that certainly satisfies the injunction in Matthew 25. But their "plans" are inadequate to fulfill the Matthew 25 mandate.
Proposing that private charity should do whatever needs to be done, and hoping that there will be enough private charity, isn’t a plan -- it’s a hope. Vague hopes that private charities will take up the slack from decimated or never-enacted government programs are worthless, and have never come to fruition.
Jesus didn’t say “I was hungry and you hoped I’d be fed.” Or “I was hungry and you called upon people to feed me.”
Similarly inadequate for Matthew 25 are the vague hopes that "the market" will solve the problem; or that "competition" will; or even that the seemingly-more-specific, yet just as bogus, long-discredited Reagan-era theory, "trickle-down" economics, will provide the solution.
Vague hopes are not enough: plans to help the poor must be concrete.
Indeed, Church social doctrine makes explicitly clear that concrete action is required:
Jesus would charge the entire society with the responsibility. There's every reason to think that each of us is judged by how the actions we each take influence our government and our society.
What if an individual tries but fails to get the government or society to treat the "least of these" in a Matthew 25 fashion? Is that individual punished because of the collective failure to act properly? I would hope not, but in any case, such speculation is irrelevant for purposes of this discussion, since as be shown above right-wing pseudo-Christians
as individuals are on the opposing side of such proper action.
(To jump ahead on another point: this does not call for a government solution to any given problem. It just calls for some
The Bible makes clear that God will hold a nation responsible for its wrongful acts toward the poor -- that is to say, for its political acts of omission or commission.
Anyone can call themselves a "Christian," Rex. But, you are not the only one who considers the words of Jesus Christ in his actions, yet you are the one who uses them selectively to support your greed to your utter shame before the Lord.