This week as my kids and I were at the grocery store my youngest child noticed the Salvation Army bellringer standing at the entrance and asked if they could have some money to put in his bucket. I handed them each some money to give and then we headed off to run the rest of our errands. As I was lost in thought of how sweet and amazing it was that my children wanted to give I heard these words, whatever you’ve done unto the least of these you’ve done unto me (Matt. 25:40), and I automatically took that as God saying, “You did good kid!” So I went on with my merry way feeling so good about my kids desire to help others and my parenting…I know what your thinking and don’t worry I’m laughing too.
The next morning and all throughout the rest of the day I kept hearing those same words, Whatever you’ve done unto the lease of these you’ve done unto me, and I finally realized God was trying to get my attention. Once I finally quieted myself, I sensed that my idea of “the least of these” and God’s idea of the least of these was not in alignment. There was a need for my perspective to change.
So who are the least of these?
That seems like a no-brainer. Our culture tends to think of anyone who is an outcast is the least, the homeless person, the drug addict, the prostitute, etc. Isn’t that who we typically think of? After all, they’re the ones that we target when we do street evangelism and when we think about doing ministry outreach.
But what if who we consider to be “the least” is not the ones that God considers to be the least? Do we determine the least by what we see they’re lacking or by what God sees they’re lacking?
My mind goes to the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). Lazarus was the poor man who was covered in sores that laid outside the rich man’s gate daily begging for food. We would consider Lazarus to be the least of these, the lacking one, and yet, when he dies he is the one in paradise, in God’s presence. When the rich man dies he’s the one who goes to hell.
So the last will be first, and the first last. (Matthew 20:16)
I don’t believe this parable is saying that if your rich you are going to hell, but I do think this parable teaches us that the least of these has to be seen from God’s perspective. For the lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)
Should we love on the ones who are living hard lives, regardless of whether it was their choice or not? Yes, because that’s what Jesus did, and he tells us to do what he did. But should we put those in a box and say that they are the epitome of the least of these? No.
The least of these could be our neighbor, the grocery store clerk, the president of the bank or county sheriff. The least would be the ones that are the smallest in significance in our own lives.
I honestly can’t say that I’ve never viewed a phone solicitor as a significant part of my life. I often forget that he’s someones child, brother or friend. And I don’t consider to treat him with honor and respect because he’s God’s creation. Instead, I get irritated and sarcastic with him… “Whatever you’ve done unto the least of these you’ve done unto me.”
But Christ became Emmanuel, God with us, for all of us. He values all of his creation and sees each one of us a significant, that includes the bank president and prostitute.
So who are the least of these in your own life?
I want to encourage you that as you do your Christmas shopping and partying and everyday living to not loose sight of who God places in your life. They are your next opportunity to love God.