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, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 35 – 40
If there is one Scripture verse that can affect me more than any other, it is this one. For I know I have fallen so short of what God would have me do in this area more than any other.
I can always try to rationalize it by thinking that we have ways of helping others that we contribute to regularly, but are they enough? There is such a great need all around us – in our towns, cities, nation, and world. How can we turn away from those needs when this verse is asking us to love others from overflowing, unselfish hearts and to care for those who are in desperate need?
We have friends who are life-long evangelists. They have devoted their lives to being the hands and heart of Christ as they have taken His message and love to various parts of the world. They have given so unselfishly of their time, efforts, and resources to teach; to provide medical care and food; to help build churches, homes, and schools; and to share God’s love and grace in such beautiful ways with their talents.
Their lives have inspired, humbled, and blessed so many who know of their life work. And I know of so many others who have gone on mission trips from time to time and have done the same. I so admire these individuals and have been blessed by their stories. But with excuses like health issues and age, my mission now seems to be to serve God in other ways. But still, I struggle with how and how much.
Once a week I go to a clinic for allergy shots, and each time I have gone for the last year or so, I have seen this same man and his dog on a street corner nearby. No matter the day of the week, they are always there. Could they possibly be there every day? The middle aged man is holding a sign, with the words, “HOMELESS, PLEASE HELP!”, asking for donations for himself and his dog, a large, husky type breed.
Each time, it tugs at my heart, and I feel guilty, embarrassed, and saddened as I see them standing there so vulnerable and needy. I have gotten so close to rolling down my window and handing him money so many times, but then the light will change, and I move on, and try to forget the scene I just witnessed.
There have been many others on the streets that we have encountered through the years and on several occasions, we have given them money, food, and water, but I am torn between helping or ignoring. Are these individuals truly desperate or are they just taking advantage of others?
I don’t know their stories, but I can always rationalize it by thinking that there are plenty of homeless shelters in the area, much government assistance that would be available to them, many churches, and other benevolence and humanitarian groups that could help. There has to be an easier way than standing on a street corner in 30 degree cold or 95 degree heat to find the help they need. And when they are on a street corner, it doesn’t seem feasible to stop and hear their stories.
Many of us have become so cynical these days, and it has become difficult to trust those we don’t know. Yet, I know in my heart that this could be one of us, or members of our own families, in dire situations! How much we would want and need the help from others. It is so difficult to see these individuals, and knowing whom and when to help seems overwhelming – there is such a need, and how do we choose? How can we make a difference in this world among so many?
I admit that like many others who are more fortunate, I too often want to forget poverty and oppression and pretend it doesn’t exist, but obviously God doesn’t. I found that there are more than 300 verses in Scripture that deal with the poor, social justice, and God’s deep concern for these individuals.
I have heard it said that God doesn’t expect us to make sweeping changes in a person’s lifestyle, but He does expect us to perform simple acts of love and genuine kindness. By ministering to them with the basics of life, such as food, water, clothing, and shelter, we are serving Jesus Christ.
In these verses from “His Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus explains that how we treat the least of His people represents our treatment and love for Him. He directs us to give to those in desperate need and share the blessings we have been given. The best proof of our love for Him is our love for those who suffer. We have an obligation to do so, not just in material ways, but also in ways that lift them up spiritually – with prayer and love. May my heart, our hearts, be transformed to do so. May we better serve Him and share our blessings with others.
Dear God, help us to take advantage of the opportunities we are given to share your love and grace with those who are in need. We often question their motives and our own need for action, but through your Spirit, may we discern when to offer a helping hand. Give us courage that we might better serve you by serving others. Amen