"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?" (Matthew 25:34-39 NASB)
I have been deeply touched by this example of the righteous, and how they conduct themselves in the last day.
They clearly have no recollection of having done the very things that are pleasing to God. But the question came: when they originally did these righteous acts, were they unaware? It says “without faith it is impossible to please God,” so they must have been works done in faith, out of obedience to the Lord as He led them in their daily lives.
The “righteous” are those who live by faith and seek the Lord’s direction in all areas, especially their service to others. So they were certainly aware of the good they were doing as they were doing it. But I love how, by the end of their lives, we see that they honestly don’t even remember having done these deeds of faith.
We see that they practiced forgetting.
It’s so easy to keep cherished memories of good. But this story teaches that those who live by the Spirit make a practice of constantly forgetting all the good they have done. They reject the temptation to savor the memory of some good deed, of someone’s appreciation. They cast their crowns at Jesus’ feet and move on. They sought to put their good deeds behind them as soon as they did them. We should follow this example. The only thing we should set before us is the Lord Jesus Himself (Hebrews 12:1-2, Psalm 16:8).
The Apostle Paul said, "..One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."(Philippians 3:13b-14 NASB)
It’s natural to think that he was referring to his past life of sin, and that is true. We should definitely forget the sin that lies behind, rejecting feelings of condemnation and despair, and glorying in the cleansing blood of Christ and God’s faithfulness to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9). But it is not only our past sins we should leave behind. We must also leave all of our good deeds behind as well, and practice forgetting them as the righteous in Matthew 25 did.
Someone has said, “There are two things we should forget: the bad things others have done to us, and the good things that we have done to others.” There is a lot of wisdom there.
And if that’s not reason enough to practice forgetting, we should remember that it does not go well with the ones who remember their good deeds in the last day:
"Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS." (Matthew 7:22-23 NASB)