“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31–40)
By speaking about separating goats and sheep, Jesus made an allusion to the words of the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 34 God compared Israel to a flock with God as the shepherd who would judge between “one sheep and another, and between rams and goats” (Ezekiel 34:17). In Ezekiel, God was criticizing the religious and political leadership for mistreating the weak and poor and that God would judge them for it the same way a shepherd would judge between sheep. Jesus used the same imagery to point out that God’s concerns were no different in his time than they were in Ezekiel’s. He accused the religious establishment of being no better than their ancestors were. He told them they were mistreating those most in need.
God is not separated from the people of the world just because we can’t see him. Wherever we are, there he is in our midst, no matter what we are doing, no matter what we are about, no matter where we go. God feels each kindness, each blessing we bestow on those around us. As we treat human beings, created in the image of God, we treat God himself.