A brother in Christ went home to be with the Lord yesterday. It is painful to think about what his wife and kids are going through, to be with his brothers and their families as they mourn, to think that in the days and months and years ahead I won't run in to him in town any more. Yet my heart is at peace, because I know where he is right now. I admired this man. He gave without thought of return. He did for others without even thinking, and this is such a Christ like quality that, minister though I am (and this isn't saying much), I still lack much of the time. I pray that, like this brother, the least of these, those who cannot pay me back, become important to me.
These were important to Jesus, too. He used the least of these as examples many, many times throughout His ministry. This was a reflection of His Father's heart. Throughout the Old Testament, how the outsider, the poor, the foreigner, the marginalized, and the sick were treated absolutely mattered to God. How the "least" were treated was the basis for removing Israel and Judah from their land and sending them to exile! God's good world is broken; it wasn't a design flaw, we broke it. We set in motion the broken things that happen in this world by our rebellion against the designer. We looked upon ourselves as the center, and each generation that followed our original ancestors became more and more self-centered, seeking to dominate through violence and control. When we seek the welfare of the least of these (on our own, not under compulsion), we begin to set things right: we reflect the heart of God in blessing others who can never repay. I pray for me, and for you, that we reflect this heart. The least of these absolutely matter.
Luke 14:12-14 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Matthew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who 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 drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”