Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'”
This is a very famous teaching, but it is often ignored and/or misinterpreted. Everyone who reads it wants to put themselves on the side of the sheep, not the goats! There are those who use this as justification for focusing entirely on social welfare ministry, essentially divorcing it from sharing the Gospel. However, various other things Jesus said point up the futility of meeting physical need while ignoring a person’s relationship with their Creator. The flip side of that is those who are so focused on the “spiritual” that they ignore the physical needs of those with whom they interact. They like to pretend this passage isn’t in the Bible! I am reminded of something attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach constantly. When necessary, use words.” We are to be active in communicating the Good News of the kingdom of God, but if our lives aren’t congruent with what we say, it’s essentially meaningless. James was very clear on this point throughout his letter, and he grew up watching Jesus. This is the tragedy of high-profile Christians who succumb to moral failures, or even, short of that, demand honor and privilege because of “who they are.” (Actually, someone who is over impressed with who they are is ripe for moral failure.) This all fits in with what Jesus said was the 2nd greatest commandment, to love our neighbor as ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-40) For ourselves, we certainly want eternal life, but we also want our immediate needs met. In priority, the eternal outweighs the temporal, (2 Corinthians 4:17) but it’s hard to focus on God when we’re cold, hungry, or in pain. We are not to ignore those in need any more than we would want to be ignored, but we also need wisdom, because we cannot meet all the needs around us. We need to let God show us how we are to be His instruments, and hold nothing back.
I have always tended to be on the “focus on the eternal” side when it comes to dealing with others, so this story of Jesus is a strong warning to me. I am bombarded with requests for money to support various groups of people, to the point that I tend to tune it all out, which is very wrong. I have long been impressed with Samaritan’s Purse, and their ministry of meeting needs in the name of Jesus, but there are other genuinely worthwhile ministries as well. At the same time, I must not ignore the needs that are right under my nose, so to speak. I tithe faithfully, but I’m not to think that eliminates my responsibility in this area. At the moment I’m feeling the strongest pull toward supporting a specific ministry to persecuted Christians, so I need to discuss it fully with my wife and act in agreement with her and the Holy Spirit. I’m not trying to “earn brownie points” but I do want to be an obedient, faithful steward.
Father, thank You for this reminder. Keep me from letting it slide, but rather help me follow through to do Your will for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!