In Matthew 25:40 Jesus says, “…I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
This is a verse that comes from a longer parable that is often labeled “the sheep and the goats.” It is a passage that tells the story of a King who represents God, Himself. The King is judging and separating out those who belong to Him (the sheep) and those who seem like they belong but will be removed from His presence (the goats). It seems like the King is choosing who is in and who is out. However if you read the passage, it is clear that the people themselves have chosen whether they have decided to truly follow the Good Shepherd Jesus, or if they are simply acting out the things that sheep do, while still being goats inwardly.
As Jesus, the King, is inviting the sheep into a place of blessing and inheritance, those who are favored by God don’t even seem to remember living out the ways of Jesus (loving others with the love of Jesus). They are almost shocked, and certainly don’t have an air of entitlement about them. The “sheep” question Jesus about when they clothed the naked, cared for the sick and visited Jesus in prison. It is Jesus’ response in verse 40 that is the answer to this question – whenever you did it for the least of (His) brothers, it was if you were loving Him.
You can learn a few things working as a youth pastor for more than a decade. It has become clear over the years that if you want to love someone, you can simply love their kids and treat them well – and the parent will feel immensely loved and valued. Jesus feels the same way about “the least of these.”
Who are the “least” in your world?
- Is it the transient and homeless person on the street or in the café who asks you for a handout?
- Is it the excessively wealthy person who is surrounded by possessions, but hopelessly isolated and poor relationally?
- Is it your neighbor, who is conflicted in their relationships to others and fearful of getting close to anyone because they have been burned before?
- Is it a coworker or friend who scoffs at your faith, and yet is clearly struggling to find meaning and purpose in their life?
- Is it those who lash out on social media and have lost all sense of honor and decorum in their comments?
- Is it leaders, politicians, and public figures that polarize a crowd and bring division instead of unity?
- Is it you? Do you feel like the least in some way today?
Luke 6:32 says, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them."
You don’t get medals for reciprocating love, but it does get the attention of Jesus when you initiate loving, serving, praying for and blessing others first. When we love those who are unlovely, needy, lonely, and desperate nearby, we look like Jesus. This is what Jesus has wanted all along – for us to be like a mirror that reflects to a lonely world what a loving God really looks like.
What would it look like to initiate love today?
Let’s pray this prayer today:
Lord, give me eyes to see the least of these around me. Help me to hear your voice and feel your promptings to love others today. Give me strength and courage to step out of my comfort zone and reflect you more. Show me your strategy and give me your creativity to serve others without expecting anything in return. Let me see where you are already working, so I can join you in the good work that you are already doing. Thank you Jesus for meeting me and leading me today.