Q. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells his followers that if they do not show mercy to one another, God will not show mercy to them. He mentions that the sheep (mercy givers)will be separated from the goats, and that the sheep will go to heaven, and the goats to hell. Can you help me understand how this isn’t saying that our salvation is works related? If this parable is speaking of faith that leads to right actions, then my question would be, can a person truly be saved but not exhibit much mercy or right actions? How many merciful actions are enough to demonstrate true faith? Or does only God know this? I’m a little worried that I’m not demonstrating enough mercy and kindness to others.
A. If you read Matt; 25:31 carefully you’ll see that Jesus was talking about the time just after the 2nd Coming. Therefore the sheep and goat judgment concerns people on Earth who will have survived the Great Tribulation and doesn’t involve the Church. Their mercy toward the Lord’s brothers (Jewish people) during the Great Tribulation will be evidence of their faith, since no one else would risk his or her own life to help them. So it’s not their works that will save them, but their faith.
As for true salvation leading to right actions, the answer is it will (James 2:14-17). A believer’s life will give evidence these things. But the number of right actions is not pertinent. God knows whether our actions are prompted by faith or not.
If you think you’re not doing enough, ask the Lord for more opportunities and let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Otherwise it will just be religious work and of no value to the Lord.