Kindness to All?

Q. On the sheep and goats passage in Mt 25, I tend to think that we should show kindness to all, more than just brothers mentioned in 25:40 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.’  Any comments? Why did Matthew use the word “brother” in 25:40? What’s his point?

A.  I believe we should show kindness to all, but not based on Mt 25:40, which specifically addressed to “brothers”. The context contrasts sheep, representing brothers, with goats, those who are not brothers. So, to say “brothers” implies “all” goes beyond the text and the Lord’s intended meaning.

I base “kindness to all” on the following:

  • Lk 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Also Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27)
  • 2 Tim 2:24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged.
  • 2 Co 6:6 in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,
  • Gal 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
  • Col 3:12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience;

The Lord commanded us to love our enemies. If we are to be like God, and He is kind to ungrateful and evil men, who are not our brothers, we certainly need to show kindness to all. This is explicitly taught by Paul. Even though 2 Tim 2:24 addressed the Lord’s bond-servants specifically, the principle does not go against the context and is applicable to all. This is also the case in 2 Corinthians 6:6, where Paul was commending themselves as servants of God (2 Co 6:4). They are to be kind so that they give no cause for offense in anything, in order that the ministry will not be discredited (2 Co 6:3).

The fruit of the Spirit, which includes kindness, should be manifested by all those who belong to Christ Jesus (Gal 5:24). Since Christians are those who have been chosen of God, we are to put on kindness to all, not just to those who love and do good to us, in keeping with the spirit in Lk 6:32-34. So, while I agree with your conclusion, my rationale is different.

Lastly, why did Matthew use the word “brother”? In chapter 25 there are three periscopes:

  • Parable of Ten Virgins;
  • Parable of the Talents; and
  • The Sheep and the Goats.

All three showed a separation – the wise from the foolish, the faithful from the lazy, the blessed from the accursed. Each time the focus is on what they did versus did not do. The emphasis was on the subject, not the object, which in the first two cases were things – oil and talents – not people. What’s important is the action or inaction, not the recipient. So, “brother” is not the main point of the story, faith in action is. I could be wrong, so if you have a better explanation please inform me.

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