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.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Matthew 25:41-45 (NIV)
These words of Jesus appear at the end of Matthew 25 following several parables. At first glance, it may be easy to assume this is another parable about a king speaking to his servants. However, Jesus leads up to this passage by saying, “when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne” (v. 31), then he describes separating the “sheep from the goats,” placing the sheep on his right and the goats on his left (see vv. 31&32). The verses above (41-45) are directed toward those on his left, the “goats” who apparently missed the essence of who Jesus was and how He wanted them to live. Jesus is pretty clear about their eternal destination as well (see v.45).
Referring to this passage from Matthew, Francis Chan writes, “Jesus is saying that we show tangible love for God in how we care for the poor and those who are suffering. He expects us to treat the poor and desperate as if they were Christ himself. Ask yourself this: If you actually saw Jesus starving, what would you do for Him?” (Crazy Love, pg 119). When I first read that question, my immediate thought was, “if I actually saw Jesus starving, I would give him food!” But then as I thought about it further, I realized that I would do a lot more than that. I might treat him to lunch and ask him approximately a thousand questions. I may give him all the money I had in my wallet (or stop by the ATM). But I hope I would do more. If I actually saw Jesus on the street and in need, I hope I would invite him over to my house and ask my wife to cook some of her best recipes for us to enjoy together. I would beg him to stay as long as he would like, to eat my food, to talk with me and my wife, and to play with my kids. I would invite friends and family and neighbors over to meet Jesus in person, to listen to his stories and his teaching, and to be healed. I would want to take him to hospitals to heal the sick, to care homes to bring joy to the lonely, and to the prisons to give hope to prisoners. I would share him with as many people as possible. If Jesus lived down the street or in the next state, I would quit my job, move my family, sell my stuff just to be close to him. I would rearrange my schedule and my entire life just to spend the most amount of time possible in the presence of Jesus. If he had a house, I would work on his roof, mow his grass, fix his toilet; I would use the skills and abilities I have to serve him and I would constantly seek to find new ways I could serve him.
But Jesus doesn’t live down the street, or does he? He is not going to be laying in a hospital bed, begging in the street, or locked in a prison, or is he? From Jesus’ own words, it seems painfully clear that he equates serving people in need with serving him. Whatever we do for and to the people in our sphere of influence who are in need, we do for and to Jesus himself. Like me, I am sure most people reading this have heard of this idea of loving others as if they were Jesus, but do we really believe it? And if we do believe it, is it evident in our lives? Personally, I do believe we are to care for others as if they were Jesus himself, but when I look at my life honestly, I just don’t see it. Sure, I see a few glimpses of generosity, but they have more to do with just being a good person than with serving Jesus. How many hungry people have I walked by and not even noticed? How many people right in my own community are in desperate need of simple things that I could provide? How many people are seeking love in the wrong places and need someone to share the love of Jesus with them in words and in actions? What do I have to give that would be valuable to people in need?
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:16-18)
Francis Chan adds that, “another important element to giving is with our time…[but] instead of adding in another thing to our lives, perhaps God wants us to give Him all of our time and let Him direct it as He sees fit” (Crazy Love, pg.120). When it comes to giving and loving others, Chan points out that we often cling to more than our money and material possessions; “we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends,” (pg 120) instead of sharing ourselves and our lives generously with others. As we constantly reflect on the incredible gift of salvation through the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our response should be to draw near to the heart of God and share this life-giving, sacrificial love with as many other people on this earth as possible.
Who in your life may be considered ‘the least of these’ and need you to serve them as you would serve Jesus?
What would you do if you actually saw Jesus in need? Have you been doing it?
I would love to hear your responses in the comments below or on Facebook.
For more from Francis Chan, see crazylovebook.com