Speaking of Life 5006 | The Least of These
In my travels locally and around the world, it is devastating to see the different forms of poverty that I encounter. On a recent trip to South Africa, a young boy came knocking on the window asking for money while we were stuck in traffic. I wanted to help but I didn’t have any local money. One of the people inside the car gave me a few coins to pass on to the young boy. As soon as I gave the money, a crowd started to form surrounding our car. If you helped one, everyone else came and asked for help. As we drove away, it broke my heart that I couldn’t help them all.
In his humanity, Jesus experienced this too. In his earthly ministry, Jesus healed people that he encountered but he couldn’t heal them all. Healing them was only a short-term solution. Jesus couldn’t devote all of his time to healing people rather he was devoted to preaching the good news about our loving Father who invites us into a relationship and Kingdom where one day every need will be met and all will be made well.
Every day we are confronted with the reality that there is a world full of endless needs. It can get overwhelming just thinking about all the problems that exist in our own tiny part of the planet. We know we cannot solve the world’s problems nor meet all the needs that we constantly see around us, but we can do our part to participate in the work that God is doing in the environs where we inhabit.
In Matthew 25, Jesus lists a group of people who are in dire situations. After mentioning their circumstances, He equates our service to them with meeting his own needs.
For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
The situations that Jesus mentions in this passage of Matthew’s gospel are practical needs, which, if we are honest with ourselves, rarely present themselves to us when it is most convenient. Further, these needs may involve sacrifice on our part. And that’s his point.
Participating in Jesus’ kingdom will often involve sacrificially doing something practical for someone else. This list Jesus presents in Matthew 25 was not meant to be comprehensive. He wants us to look around and see the needs of those around us.
Who are the “least of these” in your own life? Who is God placing on your heart? Have you asked him? I find that the Holy Spirit is oftentimes nudging me, and I am growing to respond more readily.
Here are a few basic ideas to consider. What if you called that friend who is struggling emotionally? How about providing meals to the person in your neighborhood who just went through surgery? What if we walked across the street and took a plate of homemade cookies to a new neighbor? One of our churches in the Philippines has an active program called “Good in the Neighborhood.” I think this is what Jesus had in mind.
Notice that some of the people on Jesus’ list were probably responsible for the predicament that they found themselves in. Does it matter? Let’s remember, it is not our job to weed out the least of these by those we deem as worthy of our help. God’s grace is extended to all.
The idea of a God who is distant and unable to empathize with his creation disappears when we understand that God feels what we feel. That when one of the least of these is cared for, he feels cared for. When one of the least of these feels relief, he is relieved. Caring for others is caring for Christ.
We cannot meet every need we can encounter – and it can be heartbreaking. But we know the One in whom every need is met and we can make a difference when we follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit to see and meet the needs of others around us. We can’t help everyone, but we can be a blessing to those to whom God directs us to. And that’s making a world of difference.
I’m Greg Williams, Speaking of Life.