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.Was it Mark Twain who said it wasn't the parts of the Bible he didn't understand that bothered him but rather the parts that he did understand? With a lot of the parables, I've had to wrestle with them to see what they wanted to say to me. This one speaks loud and clear -- far too clear for comfort.
The voice of the "accursed" is too familiar. "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?" This is our defense against the poor and the needy. We don't see them. We structure our lives in such a way as to keep them hidden. If we actually saw the stranger or the naked or the sick or the imprisoned, we'd be shamed into helping them. So, we keep them out of sight.
Even in charity we rarely see those we are proposing to help. We take out our checkbooks and write a big enough check to ease our conscience. But this can be just another way of hiding from those in need.
One of the most striking things about this parable is the fact that the "blessed" are surprised to hear the king's praise. There's nothing calculated in what they've done. It's simply the way they've lived. Their actions flowed from within, not to ease a discomfort, but as a natural outpouring.
I pray to be so blessed.