Matt. 25:40 And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!” (NLT) [Entire Parable – Matt. 25:34-40)
I imagine when we consider this Scripture reference to “the least of these,” we typically think of the poor, those in prison, the physically or emotionally disadvantaged, etc. Certainly these people are an important part of “the least of these.” However, I would submit that the “downtrodden” can and does include a much broader group of persons. I feel quite certain that we encounter people in this category every single day of our lives.
Before I make some suggestions of those in this larger category, I’d like to add another Scripture reference that addresses the answer to the question posed by the Pharisees and answered by Jesus in Matt. 22:36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?”
Matt. 22: 37-40 Jesus replied, “[‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul , and all your mind.’] This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: [‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’] The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” (NLT)
I would suggest that this command to love is quite thorough! Who IS my neighbor? ANYONE you come eyeball to eyeball with throughout the day. ANYONE that our amazing God also created in His image and whom He also loves unconditionally with as much love as He loves each and every one of His “sheep.”
So “the least of these” is that person behind the counter who didn’t have as much patience as you thought they should, or it’s the person who just got the rent bill or mortgage in the mail and can’t pay it, perhaps it’s someone who received notice of ill health or the death of a loved one or close friend, or could it be that person just released from rehab that is so anxious and frightened that a relapse will occur? Actually, our list could pretty much go on ad infinitum.
Isn’t it true that anyone we meet on any given day at any given time could be “the least of these” that so needs our patience, our encouragement, our love? A person that is broken or hurting in some way that we may never know? A creation of our Creator God that so desperately needs the love of Jesus communicated through His adopted son or daughter?
Sometimes this is easy for us to deliver … other times it is downright excruciating because to us they just don’t seem to “deserve” this in the way they look, act, talk or behave … or, we are struggling ourselves. I would submit, that perhaps, this is when it matters the most to “love our neighbor” – to meet the needs of “the least of these.” If we so chose to look the other way, if we refuse, Jesus said, “you were refusing to help Me.” Matt. 25:45
Prayer focus: Lord, help me to truly understand and apply the idea that – “the GREATEST of these is LOVE!” – and, to ask the question: “What does LOVE require of me.”