Matthew 25:31-45 has always been a frightening passage of Scripture for me because it peels back my self-righteousness and calls my greed into account. This isn't just a passage for Christmas, when people are more prone to give or volunteer their time. It's a description of true followers of Christ (the "sheep") and the result of the gospel hitting their hearts (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and those in prison). Two things hit me from this:
1. We sometimes don't understand the impact of our good works. The "sheep" sure didn't. They fed the hungry, not realizing that in a mysterious way, they also fed Jesus ("Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.") So don't give up on doing good to others, no matter how small it may seem.
2. Eternal punishment, in this passage, is reserved for people who saw those brothers in need and did nothing. Now I know that we're saved because of Christ, not our works, but our lives reveal whether or not we trust and love Him. You can't claim to love God and hate or ignore the people He loves; your actions will expose you as a liar and a hypocrite. Hell is for people who see others in need, others who are suffering, and do nothing.