THE least OF THESE
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.'” – Matthew 25:34-40
I love this set of verses for several reasons! They not only reveal the heart of Christ for the poor and needy, but also the will of Christ for His people. When He calls them to their inheritance, He doesn’t say “You worshipped well during service, spoke in many tongues, and stood up for powerful movements.” Granted, all of these are good and have their place, but it is not what the Lord addresses. Instead, He makes it a point to say that the reason why He is welcoming them in is because of how they took care of the needy.
Now, this isn’t some call to works in order to be righteous but an acknowledgment of works we perform because He has made us righteous! We don’t do these things to obtain salvation but, because we have been redeemed, it is love that urges us to these good works and because He loves us we are able to do them. “We love because He first loved us.” What good does it do to only raise our hands and shout praise, speak in a thousand tongues, or hit every note as we sing worship songs during service if we do not take the heart that He develops in us during those times and go out into the streets to feed the hungry and clothe the naked?
The heart of God is made apparent throughout the Word and it is not lacking in compassion for the needy! Weren’t we all, at some point, part of that very same condition? Were we not spiritually destitute and lacking in any good works? The riches that we have, not worldly, we have because He loved us and gave Himself for us. Should we not do the same for the broken in our own streets?
It is a sad day when the people of the church will not help the people of the community, even more sad when they will not help the people of the church who are in need, and more sad still that we talk about it and applaud it but fall short when it actually comes to doing something. We are not a people who were created to be all talk and no action, speaking wonderful things but lacking in any actual effort. The truth is that to speak good things is of no value if we do not follow it up with action!
James addresses this issue in his epistle, saying “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” – James 2:14-17
James goes on to clarify this by saying that faith and action work in tandem, removing any excuse that can be given for not doing good deeds, by adding “But someone will say, ‘You have faith, I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” – James 2:18-24
It is not in wishing others well or blessing them with words that the heart of God is witnessed, but in the stretching out of our hands and the giving up of ourselves that true love is manifested for others to see. There are no amount of good things that we can say and no amount of times that we can proclaim we are “a people for the community” that will make it true if we do not have actions to support those words and make them happen. We say that we want to do good, then wait around for God to do the things that He told us to do!
We see the hungry, naked, thirsty, jobless, homeless, and destitute people around us and tell them to have faith that God will help them but we do nothing to make that help manifest. Truly, no matter how many times we might tell them that God will help they will continue to be hungry until we stretch out our hands with food! That IS the defining quality of the righteous that Christ is speaking to in Matthew 25. As I mentioned in my last post, it does no actual good to travel to other countries and worship with hands raised in a million services if we do not tend to the needy right outside our own doors.
Over the past month, I have had the opportunity to work with several of the homeless, jobless, and needy men of the city I live in. During this time I have been blessed to witness some of these men go from having no hope to being full of hope! As we sit at one of the local coffee shops and I help them create resumes, find jobs, talk to them as they get ready to go into rehab, and even take them into my own home these men have actually changed— I am not boasting of myself, but of what God has done in these men because I was willing to give up some of my time to help them— some even crying because they “have never had someone be so good to them.”
There is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that this is the love that we are called to! Not to barricade ourselves up in our churches and sing empty songs, but to be out in the world loving and helping those who are cast out! Not that singing praise is not a good thing, but it surely means nothing if we do not actually live out the love of the God that we sing to. My point is that it does not matter how much we serve during service, pray in tongues, raise our hands, how many teams we are on, how loudly we can sing, or how many messages we listen to if we do not step outside of those doors and love the people who are forgotten by everyone else!
It is easy to say that we love the broken, but it is another thing entirely to actually love them! It looks like embracing the dirty, holding them in our arms even though they are covered in filth and smell bad, taking them into our homes despite our hesitance to trust because of fear, and picking them up off of the road even though they look sketchy! We talk a big talk, but I remember a time when I had to walk several miles to church and people would pass me by; people that I would see at the church when I got there. We say that we love the hurting and the poor, but I know what it is like to be jobless and have business owners at my own church not respond to applications and messages regarding those jobs. I am in the church, part of the body— though certainly not as needy as those who are outside— but if we will not even help our own brothers and sisters how much less will we help those who are outside?
It is time someone stood up and spoke out against the hypocrisy that is so prevalent in this modern era of the church, one that preaches riches and praises loudly but is absolutely devoid of any good works! We are called to more than claiming the riches of the kingdom, saying we want to share them, but shutting out the needy when it comes time to help them. The love of God is not limited to annual events that showcase kindness without following it up until the next event; it urges us outward daily, to tend to the poor and supply their needs, not to pray for God to do what He clearly commands us to do and waiting for a response instead of providing it! The hungry aren’t fed by our prayers, they’re fed by us bringing them food! The homeless aren’t clothed and given a roof over their heads by us saying that it should be done, but by us taking them in and helping them get on their feet!
When those in need have to earn our trust before we help them, we miss the point entirely! There was nothing that we did to earn Christ’s love, it was given without requiring us to be worthy of it. If we do not stand up and not only proclaim but live the truth we will find ourselves standing before Christ, proclaiming to Him all that we have done and being rejected by Him.
We live in a time in which the image of Christianity is more important than righteous action. We are seeing an era of the church that wants all of the rewards of inheritance without any of the requirements, proclaiming to be children of God but producing no evidence of that relationship. One of the many problems with being fattened up on tasteful doctrines that appease itching ears is that it produces a people who are eager to hear about but not perform the love of God. We have the opportunity to be a visual and tangible representation of a loving God in a world that despises Him! Why waste it away on account of fear, selfishness, and personal gain?
It avails nothing to wear the badge of Christianity without having the works to back it up. It is of no value to say that we love God and neglect to actively live out His love! What good is it to say to Pastors “thank you for listening to the Lord” after they’ve taught a good message if we do not take what is taught and perform it? Furthermore, why are we thanking men and women for listening to God and not doing so ourselves? What good is that? Will they redeem us? Will they give us our inheritance? It is not men that make us righteous but Christ alone, Who IS the righteousness of God.
We have got to stop being blind to the times that we are in and the condition of the church in this time, something the Bible clearly addresses in words from the mouth of Christ Jesus Himself, or we will be deceived; thinking we are right and finding out too late that we were not! This is not the time to be lazy in the knowledge of Word, lacking in understanding of the heart and will of God, and saying good things but having no good works to back them up.
Concerning doing those works, we don’t get to pick and choose what good works we want to do, it doesn’t work that way! We don’t get to drive by the homeless person and neglect to stop because they’re dirty or we don’t want to risk being attacked, saying that we wish we could and acting like stopping for the next will be enough to make up for neglecting the one. It’s a pathetic condition to be in when we overlook anyone in need out of selfishness, fear, or mistrust.
What if we do get attacked, or even die helping the needy? What if it is the very person we are trying to help that attacks, or even kills us? Then we die performing the love of God and we need not fear anyway! I really hope you’re seeing my point here! We say a lot of good things, then make a lot of excuses for why we can’t when we have the opportunity to actually do something of impact! I can assure you, according to Word itself, the love of God is not found in attending every service and taking great notes but in actively and obediently living the love of God even if it costs us.
We will be hated, persecuted, open to harm and betrayal, and all manner of things. It is going to happen. The world is NOT going to get better and we aren’t going to pray our nation “back to God.” Why are we wasting energy trying to stop things that Bible itself tells us will come, instead of using that energy to love as many as we can before it is too late?!
All of the devotionals, sermons, events, and worship services we can possibly take in will not save us! No amount of systems, processes, or step-by-step instructionals will add any value to us. What Christ said is enough, and looking to men and women to add to that will achieve us nothing. He gave us His will, He showed us His heart, and He made it simple. We need to spend more time focusing on that, fixing our eyes on His words and living them obediently, instead of depending on men to teach us what righteousness is without any actual application of it. There are a lot of people in our streets who are in need of help, love, mercy, and hope that are missing out because we are more caught up in the process of playing church than in the acts of the love of God.
Beloved, we need to take this seriously and not just seek a reward without the effort, an image without the application of the love we serve, and faith without the works that are required with it; seeking only what improves or enriches ourselves but neglecting to do the same for those who are lacking. Remember, whatever we do for the least we do for Christ. What a sad thing it will be to stand before Him and realize how many times we passed him by in neglecting to care for the needy.
Let’s have no part in the fruitless works of darkness, of selfishness, or in neglecting the lost and the broken but let us be a beacon of the love of God to those who do not know it!