Parable of the Sheep and Goats: Verse, Meaning & Lesson

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats is in Matthew 25:31–46. Jesus told this parable to illustrate how believers will be judged and separated based on their compassionate actions toward those in need, reflecting their faith in Christ.

This guide gives you a complete summary of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, including the verses in Scripture, the meaning, and lessons that can be applied to the Christian life.

Note: This parable is also referred to as the Judgment of the Nations.

Parable of the Sheep and Goats In Scripture

Matthew 25:31–46 – Parable of the Sheep and Goats

31  “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. 32  Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33  He will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34  Then the King will tell those on his right hand, ‘Come, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35  for I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. 36  I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me.’

37  “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38  When did we see you as a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you? 39  When did we see you sick or in prison and come to you?’

40  “The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 41  Then he will say also to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels; 42  for I was hungry, and you didn’t give me food to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink; 43  I was a stranger, and you didn’t take me in; naked, and you didn’t clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’

44  “Then they will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and didn’t help you?’

45  “Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Most certainly I tell you, because you didn’t do it to one of the least of these, you didn’t do it to me.’ 46  These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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Parable of the Sheep and Goats Meaning

This parable means at the final judgment, believers will be separated based on their compassionate actions toward those in need, reflecting their faith in Christ. Jesus told this metaphor to emphasize that serving the needy is akin to serving Christ himself.

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats carries a profound message about judgment and the importance of compassion and service to others. Here are some key interpretations of its meaning:

  • Judgment Based on Actions: The parable illustrates that individuals will be separated into two groups (sheep and goats) based on their actions toward “the least of these,” which includes feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and visiting the sick and imprisoned (i.e., the marginalized).
  • Faith Expressed Through Works: While salvation is by faith, the parable suggests that genuine faith will manifest in acts of kindness and mercy. It’s not the works that save you as a Christian, but works are evidence of a transformed life in Christ. James 2:17 states: “Faith without works is dead.”
  • Surprise in Judgment: Both groups are surprised by their fate, indicating that true service is done without expectation of reward and often without realizing the full impact of one’s actions.
  • Christ in the Marginalized: The parable emphasizes seeing Christ in others, especially the marginalized, and serving them as if serving Christ Himself.
  • Eternal Consequences: The parable ends with eternal destinies being assigned, highlighting the seriousness of how one lives their life in relation to others.

This parable encourages self-reflection on how one’s faith is demonstrated through actions and the way we treat those in need. It’s a call to live out one’s faith authentically and compassionately as a service to God.

Parable of the Sheep and Goats Lessons

Compassion in Action

The main lesson conveys the importance of showing compassion to others through concrete actions, such as feeding the hungry and caring for the sick, as a reflection of one’s faith, and not turning a blind eye to those in need.

Accountability to God

The parable also underscores the belief that everyone will be held accountable to God for their actions, especially how they treat the less fortunate.

Service to Others as Service to Christ

Serving others, particularly those in need, is equated with serving Christ himself, emphasizing the sanctity of every human being.

Surprise in Judgment

In the parable, both the righteous and the unrighteous are surprised by their judgment, suggesting that acts of kindness should be done for their own sake, not for recognition or reward.

Eternal Consequences

A key lesson of the parable is the eternal consequence of one’s actions on earth, with the righteous being rewarded and the unrighteous facing punishment on the Day of Judgment. This lesson encourages believers to live out their faith actively and compassionately, with an awareness of the broader spiritual implications of their everyday actions.

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Read More Parables In the Bible

The Parable of the Sheep and Goats is just one of many parables in the Bible. Use the links below to explore more of Jesus’ parables, their meanings, and life lessons.

Summary of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats

We hope you enjoyed this summary of the Parable of the Sheep and Goats.

As you discovered, the Parable of the Sheep and Goats appears in Matthew 25:31–46. And the primary meaning of the parable is that believers will be judged and separated based on their compassionate actions toward those in need, reflecting their faith in Christ. The life lessons include showing compassion in action, being accountable to God, practicing service to others as service to Christ, and there are eternal consequences for your actions as a Christian.

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