This is the two-hundred-sixth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
“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, 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… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:35-36, 40
Gary Waddingham, rector of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Billings, Montana, tells this story:
Several years ago, when I was ministering in a small rural community, we had extra food left over from our Christmas basket. I happened to think of a poor family who lived at the edge of town. I packed up the food and drove to their house. I am never sure how one goes about “doing charity” while preserving the dignity of those who receive the charity. When the woman, surrounded by her several children, answered the door, I thought of a subtle way to offer the food to her. I asked, “Do you know anyone who could use some extra food?” “You bet,” she said and got her coat, headed toward her car saying, “Follow me.” She took me to people who were poorer than she, people who desperately needed food. Even though she herself needed food, I remember clearly that there was absolutely no hesitation on her part.
Biblical justice is not an abstract principle: it’s about people. Real people. Jesus couldn’t have made it clearer. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Notice he calls the stranger, the naked, the ill, the prisoner, the poor “my brothers and sisters.” And, more remarkable yet, to show grace to one of them is as if we blessed Jesus himself. What could be a clearer sense of direction for any of us, a stronger sense of calling?
The possibilities are endless. We don’t need to wait until we find just the right charitable organization whose operations are impeccable and cause is worthy. We can do something today. Any society has multitudes of disadvantaged people. Jesus said, “whatever you did…
Do one thing today for someone who is among “the least of these.”
- Bring some clothing to a resale shop.
- Drop a check in the mail to an organization that assists the poor.
- Offer to help a single mom in your neighborhood or in your family.
- Write a letter to someone in prison.
And if you conclude that there is a big gap between yourself and needy people—ask yourself why, and think of a way to begin to close that gap.
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.