The Least of These


Matthew 25:31-46
“The Least of These”
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats…
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
41 “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. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 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.’
44 “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?’
45 “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.’
46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”


In the Message translation of this scripture, Eugene Peterson uses the phrase “overlooked and ignored” instead of “the least of these.” Perhaps that is a better turn of phrase in our world today. The overlooked and ignored, out of sight and out of mind, somebody else’s problem. It is rarely as obvious as someone looking at us directly and asking if we would please demonstrate our love and commitment to God by caring for them. Jesus anticipates this and removes any opportunity for us to play dumb. He is, in effect, putting us on notice that we will be held accountable for the good we do and for the good we choose not to do.

The overlooked and ignored, the marginalized and contemptible, are not always crying out in helplessness. We reason that if they need help, it’s available right? In our first-world society, at least, there are countless resources available to help those in need. People can apply for welfare, food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance etc.

Occasionally, our justification for not helping others has a more cynical tone: they deserve it. For whatever reason, they chose their station in life. It’s not my problem or my fault that they made certain decisions. Furthermore, I’m not going to contribute to their lifestyle choices or support their dependence on handouts.
Let’s be very clear here, helping the “least of these” is not a political issue. It’s not a left or right issue. It is a Kingdom of God issue, a clear command of Jesus Christ. Paying your taxes or giving to the church does not absolve you of caring for other people. If you are convinced that all the people in your life have been given a fair, equitable shake and that they mostly got what they deserved, there are entire sections of town that I’d be happy to show you right here in the Social Circle & Walnut Grove area. Take a drive down one of the side streets you don’t frequent. There are people in those neighborhoods that will soften your heart. And if someone has indeed created their life’s terrible circumstances on their own, that is even more reason to show them the love of Christ! Where would any of us be left to our own devices? Take the log out of your own eye so that you may be able to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Many Christians argue that God expects us to use discretion in helping others. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs us to let ourselves be taken advantage of by our enemies (Matthew 5:39-42). Let them know that you are acting in love, completely willing.

Lastly, the command to care for the “least of these” is not only about helping others. Those doing the helping receive a priceless gift, an enhanced window into the Kingdom of God. The first Beatitude is that the poor and the poor in spirit are blessed, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. The poor, affirms Jesus, are the blessed ones! Conversely, the rich have an incredibly difficult time entering the Kingdom of God. And these are not just financial riches, they are riches of any kind. Rich in relationships, professional success, good health, social charms, attractiveness, intelligence, etc. Richness in anything apart from God’s love and mercy tends to convince us that we don’t need that love and mercy quite so desperately. The poor have no such illusions.

Do you want more of God in your life? Start caring for and spending time with the overlooked and ignored, the socially repulsive, the “least of these.” The life you save, as the saying goes, may be your own.

Action Step

Our action step for today is very simple. Determine how you can better care for the overlooked and ignored people in our community. You don’t have to save the world. Just start with your sphere of influence.

Invite someone from outside your usual circle to lunch or to your home to watch a game. Invite them to church, maybe even ride with them to church. Smile at the people you encounter, ask them how God is moving in their life and actually listen (God may be using them to bless you). Help with a meal train. Help with Kids Grove. Volunteer at FISH Ministries. Go soak in the immense wisdom of an old folk’s home. Get involved in jail ministry. Ask the Spirit to open your eyes to the needs around you.

The Kingdom of God is here. We just have to let it in.


Lord give me eyes to see the people around me the way that you do. 
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