To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
Early in his discourse found in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Jesus indicated that the sign of his presence would include a remarkable feature—the good news of the Kingdom would “be preached in all the inhabited earth.” And just prior to talking about the sheep and the goats, he related the illustration of the talents. Jesus gave that illustration to stress to his spirit-anointed disciples, his “brothers,” that they must zealously engage in the preaching work. However, the small number of anointed ones left on earth during Jesus’ presence face an enormous challenge—that of preaching to “all the nations” before the end comes. The illustration of the sheep and the goats shows that the anointed would have help. Therefore, a primary way that those judged to be sheep show kindness to Christ’s brothers is by supporting them in the preaching work.
Preaching the good news of the Kingdom has been the focus of Christianity from the very beginning, going back to when Jesus sent out the 70. And since the inception of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society back in 1878 the impetus has always been on getting the message out there. Jehovah’s Witnesses have been equipped and impelled to go to the most distant and remote parts of the earth with the message of the Kingdom.
But will the sheep and goats of Jesus’ illustration be judged on the basis of whether or not they went out in field service?
The reason that question arises is because there is nothing to indicate that to be the case. The illustration indicates that persons will be judged by whether or not they ministered to Jesus’ brothers while they were in a state of thirst, sickness, imprisoned, naked, and alone. A question thinking Jehovah’s Witnesses might ask is: Does that describe the present condition of anyone who claims to be anointed who is connected to the Watchtower?
Certainly none of them are homeless or scantily clothed. None have been thrown in prison for following Christ. No one has missed any meals or suffers from thirst. And if any are sick they have the best treatment available to them.
So, why would Jesus illustrate the support or non-support of his brothers in their plight is the basis for judgment, if in reality the support given by the sheep merely pictures their engaging in the preaching work? Phrased another way, how is it possible for anyone – sheep or goats – to minister to someone in prison who is not in prison? How is it possible to minister to someone who is naked and thirsty if they are well dressed and satisfied?
The Watchtower’s understanding of the illustration is lacking. What is lacking is a clear vision of the future. Bluntly, the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses have no inkling that the organization is going to undergo a catastrophe. The worldwide preaching work is going to come to a sudden and jarring halt. Then what? Just as the separation of the sheep and the goats is a future event, so too is the development that will put the brothers of Christ in a different circumstance.
Then the brothers of Christ will literally find themselves homeless, hungry, sick and in prison. Jesus said that brothers will hate and betray one another and some will be beaten in their synagogues. Some will be thrown into prison. Families will even hand over their own to be put to death.
The sheep and the goats will be judged based upon their treatment of Christ’s brothers then.