Disabilities and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats

One of the hardest hitting parables that Jesus ever taught was the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25. There is a danger of protestants passing over this parable out of a desire to protect justification by faith.

“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 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.’ (Matthew 25:34-36)

The problem with this parable is that the focus (at least on the surface) is not on faith or correct theology but on our actions.

Not only does Jesus teach that we need to help people in need, Jesus actually identifies with such people. This leaves not much room for dismissing this as a focus for Christian life.

When I read this parable, I think of those with disabilities, as well as others. Why doesn’t Jesus specifically mention the disabled in this parable?

The focus for Jesus in this parable is not the labels or categories in which we place people, but in the needs. The truth is that many people with disabilities have the same needs mentioned in this parable.

In addition, we would be mistaken if we saw this as a comprehensive list that assumed there was no motivation to provide for needs not specifically mentioned in the parable. The point is to care for the vulnerable, no matter what the particular need is.

Some churches attempt to address this parable through prison ministries, homeless shelters and soup kitchens. I think those are very important and are good ways to do what Jesus calls us to do.

I would ask, what about those with disabilities? Is your church doing anything to help and welcome those with disabilities? Is there something that you could do?

Before I conclude, what about faith and correct theology? Does this parable provide an alternative for pleasing God? Not at all. I believe that the expectation is that devout faith and correct beliefs about God will lead to the actions described.




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One thought on “Disabilities and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats”

  1. I don’t think most churches effectively reach those with autism. What are some practical things they can do? It’s hard to “fit in” at church when you have a disability such as autism. Sad to say but the “cliques” do their own thing and you end up feeling like a “fifth wheel” – for sure

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