I just thought Matthew 25:41-45 was the most terrifying passage in Scripture.
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “
But as I was reading it to my kids the other night, and discussing ways we could flesh out this too-important command, I was crushed with the weight of its true meaning and by how I had completely missed it so many times.
Who are “the least of these?”
That’s the first important question to answer in light of Jesus’s chilling words here.
We know they are disciples of Christ, because Jesus refers to them as “brothers.” (Jesus referred to his personal offense in the treatment of Christians similarly, when he asked Paul, “Why are you persecuting me?” referring to the Christians Paul had persecuted.)
We know they have needs.
But Jesus also refers to children as “the least of these” in other passages, even mentioning the ministry of giving a cup of cold water to a little one.
So here’s where it punched me:
When we talk about ministering to others in Jesus’s name, as He explains in this passage, we do it with a willingness, joy and even an eagerness. Whether it’s taking food to a sick neighbor or saving up money to minister to an orphanage on the other side of the world, we take pleasure in it because we understand the very act to be good and right. We delight to serve others–those people out there, because it’s esteemed by men as well as Christ.
BUT…if ministering to the needs of little ones is the same as ministering to the needs of Christ (and by reasonable deduction we can easily conclude that), how am I ministering to my own children and husband? I mean, I certainly meet their needs. Lots of them. But with what spirit and attitude? If to feed them is to feed Christ, do I do it with the same gratitude as if He were my guest? If to clothe them, bathe them, tend to their needs is the same thing as doing it to Christ, do they receive the same willingness and love I would give if it were Him?
I confess that too often I do the thing, but I don’t truly serve. Not with the same mind and heart I would if Christ was the actual recipient. In fact, sometimes I grumble. And yet, over and over He told us to follow His foot-washing example. I don’t want to serve Christ with a grumbling spirit. And so, I must seek to serve these, the least of these, without one.
It’s true, we are human. We get tired and we aren’t going to live up to Christ’s perfect example. But still it’s there for us to strive for. I want to know that when I stand before the judgement seat of Christ, I hear “Well done…when you did it to them, you did it to Me.”
How’s that for a change of perspective!