"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. '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; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to 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? 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 'When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, [even] the least [of them,] you did it to Me.'
Matthew 25:34-40 (NASB)
Hymn: "God the Omnipotent!" Henry F. Chorley, John Ellerton, Alexis F. Lwoff
This has been a frequent enough issue lately that I feel certain some people in my life, if they see this, will suspect I am writing it at them. I would remind them that I do not choose my daily readings, but take them from two sources unrelated to each other, and trust God to say what He will say through it.
Today's reading included, among others, the entire Letter to Philemon, the beginning of Deuteronomy 15, and the end of Matthew 25. These three in particular shared a theme: the work of the righteous, when interacting with those around them, is to bless those who they are in a position to bless. In Philemon, this was directed largely at Philemon himself, who had the opportunity to release his recently-saved slave from his service, either as a brother in Christ in his own environment or to work with Paul. Paul urges Philemon to do what is right, both to Onesimus and to Paul, by giving Onesimus his freedom. The other two passages are more generalized, one urging the people of Israel to be a blessing to the poor among them, the other providing insight into the judgement of Christ and how it reflects our treatment of others people.
The message, here and elsewhere, is clear: the people of God, in service to God, must be known for their generosity. We are to give freely and without reproach to those to whom we can be a blessing, even if it costs us some comfort or security or social status. There are not conditions given, there is no exception we may claim on the grounds of our own desires or needs, our own rights or property, our own plans or hopes. When a brother is in need of food, and we have food, we are to give him food. When a sister is in need of clothing, and we have clothing, we are to give her clothing. It doesn't say to take time and determine what they will do with it. We aren't told to skip over the homeless person we think will use the money for drugs, or to let the unemployed wallow in their misery.
"But oh," comes the refrain, "Who is my brother? Who is my sister? I'm comfortable sharing within the family I know, whether physical or spiritual, but you can't expect me to apply this to everyone." I can't, that is correct, I don't have the authority to demand that of you. But when Jesus was approached with that same question, when He was asked "Who is my neighbor?" in regard to who was covered under loving one's neighbor as oneself, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan. His answer could not have been more clear to His original hearers: think of the person you would least like to consider your neighbor, and consider them your neighbor. See, when we want to draw a line on this matter, it is only so we can have peace knowing that the people we don't want to serve are on the other side of it. But this is wholly unacceptable to Christ. We must find who we would consider the worst, the person least deserving or suitable to receive our blessings, and graciously bless them anyway.
As I write this, for many in the church (based on what is posted online), this would be our political opponents, or the terrorists who seek to destroy our nation, or the refugee who comes to the border offering nothing but an empty hand and calloused feet and tear-filled eyes. We want so badly to condemn them, to turn them away, to protect the sanctity of our land against those who would just take and take and maybe never give back. And that may be the wise choice for a secular government to take, if their concern is primarily about self-preservation and resource management. But oh Christian, that option is not left available to us. Whatever the world may do, whatever the government may desire, whatever the threat to some fleeting national identity may exist, we are called, commanded, and warned that we must be a blessing to those around us, regardless of their social value or their intentions toward us. If we will use the name of Christ to offer the same curse the world gives to these people, we cannot be surprised when we find ourselves standing among the accursed before the throne of God.
After all, if we cannot see Christ in the faces of His image-bearers, can we truly say we ever really knew Him?
God the All-merciful! Earth hath forsaken
Meekness and mercy, and slighted Thy Word;
Let not Thy wrath in its terrors awaken;
Give to us peace in our time, O Lord.
"God the Omnipotent!" Verse 2, written by John Ellerton
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation