Beliefnet
Your Morning Cup of Inspiration

adult-brick-depression-262075

“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.’” – Matthew 25:37-40 (NIV)

When Jesus speaks of “the least of these” in the Gospel of Matthew, he is referring to the poor, strangers, and the imprisoned. In short, “the least of these” refers to people who are on the outside of society. They are the ones who don’t belong. Jesus’ simple command to us is this: Care for them.

You may find it hard to relate to the type of people who Jesus describes.  Most of us have always had food.  Most of us have always had clothing and shelter.  However, each of us has been “the least of these” at one point in our lives. We may not have been poor or imprisoned. But each of us has in some way experienced being an outsider.

If you have ever been divorced, at least for some period of time, you struggled and were on the outside of society. If you have ever lost your job, you have been on the outside. If you have ever made a public mistake, you have been an outsider.

We all know what it feels like to not belong. We all know, on some level, what it feels like to be rejected by the world. For instance, when I got divorced, I was very overwhelmed, and I felt like an outsider. At that time, I truly was “the least of these.” My marriage had failed, and in so many ways, I felt like I did not belong. And I soon found out how some people will treat you when you are in that position.

People who for years had claimed to be my family and friends no longer spoke to me. I was shunned in a very strange way. It was extremely disappointing.

However, to my delight, there were some family members and friends who graciously stayed in touch with me through my divorce. They sent me cards and emails and checked in on how I was doing. And they still do! They made the choice to be in relationship with me, even at a time when I was “the least of these.”

In a society that worships success and achievement, being poor or failing at something can be very lonely. And that really is the greatest stress of being on the outside of society. As Mother Teresa so insightfully said:

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”

Jesus so clearly understood this. That is why he admonished his followers to care for the poor. To welcome the stranger. To take care of the sick. And to visit the imprisoned.

Jesus wanted us to reach out to those who were on the outside of society. He wanted us to be good to those who aren’t popular. And he felt so strongly about it, that he said only people who do that will be part of the kingdom of God.

We all have people in our lives who are on the outside. Jesus asks us to ease their loneliness. He calls us to be good to them. For example, you may have a family member who is a “black sheep.” Be the one to extend yourself to the person. Set an example for the rest of your family as to what it means to care for someone on the outside.

Likewise, in every community, we have people on the outside. They are the folks who simply don’t fit the mold of your typical community member. They may live in your neighborhood. They may be members of your church. Make them feel included. Stop and chat with them when you see them. Let them know that you are interested in them.

And then, of course, Jesus asks us to reach out to strangers. He asks us to feed and clothe the person who we may not know, but who desperately needs our help. He asks us to give shelter to those have no place to go. He asks us to visit the imprisoned, the most ostracized in our society.

None of us, including me, reaches out to others to the extent that Jesus commands. And we, as a society, are paying the price. The ones who we most ostracize and shun end up being very lonely people. And their loneliness can lead them in all kinds of unfortunate directions. They can become criminals and do terrible things. And ironically, when we hear of some terrible act of violence, we scratch our heads and ask, “How could this happen?”

I will admit that caring for the least of these is not easy. Those folks aren’t perfect, successful, beautiful people. They are the people in our society who are struggling. They may have failed. They may be suffering from mental illness. They may just be down on their luck. And interacting with them may be hard. It may be uncomfortable.

But following Jesus is not comfortable. If you are disappointed in that, you need to find a different path in life. Jesus calls us to help the least of these. He calls us to ease their distress and loneliness. He calls us to show them that we care about them.

This week, consider what Jesus is calling you to do. Read the full text of Matthew 25:31-46. To me, it is the most powerful passage in the Bible, or in any book for that matter. The command to care for the least of these is not easy. But if we want to follow Jesus, that is what we are called to do.

(Photo Courtesy of Pexels)

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus