When Jesus said to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the poor he did not clarify who was excluded from such care.
He simply listed the naked, the poor, the prisoner, and the hungry.
He didn’t said they must be American. Or pure. Or ask about their criminal activities. Or if they had the best of intentions or selfish ones. He didn’t explain whether that prisoner deserved prison, whether he crossed the imaginary line at a point of entry or if he dug under a fence. Or if he was a really dangerous criminal. He didn’t tell his followers to check their papers first, or to be sure they were of a specific homeland or race.
He didn’t say our safety mattered over their worthiness.
In fact, he frequently demanded they stop categorizing whether someone was worthy of care by their homeland or race (see the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10.)
Most of you know the story but for those unaware, The Good Samaritan is a story about a man who is left lying on the road after an attack; he is passed by a Jewish priest and a Levite (the assistant to the priests, also Jewish) and eventually cared for by a Samaritan- the least likely group to help a Jew. The history and politics surrounding the story are not unfamiliar to us today…those in positions of righteousness, those considered to be holy are ignoring the broken on the side of the road out of fear, judgement, the desire to ‘not get involved,’ etc. If you’ve heard the story many times, it’s easy to dismiss this but I challenge you to consider it deeply and heartily, what part you are in this story and what it might be teaching us for today.
To see Evangelicals, those who claim to be not only Christ believers, but Christ followers, chant “Build the Wall” and share article after article about how much MONEY a child from another county might cost in pennies of their taxes….to see young people from a pro-life movement call for classification of WHO has a RIGHT TO LIFE (and in their judgement, embarrass their own selves by berating a native veteran of their country)…..to hear people who house Hispanics in their home, to hear people who have been to Honduras and Mexico, claiming to love the people there- as long as they stay in their “own country”…..there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and what we actually believe. And it is terrifying to me.
Even before this passage, in Matthew 25 where we find the list of those we are to help, we find the passage about the talents (money), one often quoted by people for the section that says “good and faithful servant” to the servants who invested and grew their master’s money. Even in this lesson do we find one that touches on this same issue- those who have much and earn much are required to give much. Much like the quote from Spiderman, “with great power, comes great responsibility.”
While I acknowledge this isn’t the American way or the way of common society, at what point did Christians decide they were to follow “America First” or the ways of society? All I’ve heard in the last 16 years of being immersed in churches and para-church organizations is that we aren’t of this world and our ways are different because God’s ways are different and being ‘worldly’ is sinful and so we must be set apart.
Until now that means loving others who are different in culture or language or color.
Until now that means giving up your money or your taxes to those who you have deemed unworthy.
Until now when you have a leader that encourages separation and judgement of worth.
Jesus doesn’t separate and judge based on bank accounts, tax brackets, possessions, power, race or even sins. He says he separates us by those who give to the hungry, poor, sick, locked away and those who don’t.
….see for yourself…
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. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.Matthew 25: 30-40
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.’
Please note in verse 37 those who try to justify their treatment of those in the list; ie, the poor, prisoner, hungry and naked; are called by Jesus THE RIGHTEOUS.
Please take a moment to let that sink in: THE RIGHTEOUS ones are the one who are ignoring and classifying those people Jesus says ARE HIM.
Lets see what he says about the righteous
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.”Matthew 25:41-46
Did Jesus say that the RIGHTEOUS people who ignore those in need will be punished?
Or did he say those in need must follow the law of the land before we help them? Did he clarify if we first determine if they need help based on a statute of our government? Did he say we should do everything we can to block them from help because helping them costs money?
Maybe I’m crazy here but I wonder if the whole lesson isn’t even about the giving- but about realizing we aren’t BETTER than someone else. We aren’t more worthy of safety or food or medical care or kindness or clothing or citizenship or whatever the need is to be met.
I am the worst of sinners. If we don’t know our own sin, perhaps we easily determine our’s is less than others? Perhaps the lesson is more about pride and less about the stuff- since we know, right?, that stuff, worldly possessions on earth, do not matter. Our treasure is found in heaven and our treasure is based on how we treat others here, not what we own or have to give away. That’s what you all have been telling me for the last 16 years. But do you mean it?
I realize our government is going to operate without Christ’s teachings as it’s guide…but what I wish to see is His followers sounding like Him- and not them. And what did he say again?
‘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.’