“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” (Matthew 25:34-36 ESV).
The news has always focused on the pain and heartache that surrounds us, but with the advent of the Internet and social media, that pain and heartache seem closer than ever. The situations in Israel, Palestine, and Iraq, the suspected suicide of comic actor Robin Williams, etc., etc., etc.
While these situations – and others like them – sadden me, there are many things I can’t do anything about (beyond prayer, which I know is vital), but I won’t be held accountable for those things.
But here are some of the things I will be held accountable for:
Feeding the Hungry
I am not a government official. I don’t make policy. I don’t have the financial resources to make any kind of significant difference on a global scale. But I can afford to alleviate the suffering of just one person. Though the Big Picture may be too overwhelming, I can allow my heart to be stirred for that one individual – or more.
Giving Drink to the Thirsty
I take it for granted. I go to my kitchen and get clean, life-giving water anytime I want to. Amongst our First World complaints is the fact that we have to pay for water – at least in the city where I live. But – Wow! – what a complaint! I may never travel to an impoverished part of the world and dig a well, but I can support those who do – even in some small way.
Welcoming the Stranger
We spend so much time teaching our children to be wary of strangers that sometimes we instill fear in ourselves. We become content to spend time with family, friends, and coworkers, forgetting that a simple gesture like a smile or a hello can make a huge difference in someone’s life. And we probably all remember the feeling of being excluded at some point in our life. It’s no more fun for an adult than it is for a child or a young person.
Clothing the Naked
Most of us don’t have to venture very far from home to encounter those who would cherish what we toss away without a second thought. I’m well aware of the “teach a man to fish” philosophy – and I agree with it. But sometimes before we can do that, we have to offer that same man food to fill his stomach, drink to quench his thirst, and clothes to cover his nakedness. Then we can go about the business of teaching him how to fish.
Visiting the Sick
I’m not a doctor or a nurse. I’m not a nutritionist or a naturopath. I can, however, spend time with those who are sick, both in person or online. I was asked just this past weekend if I thought social media actually took away from that personal connection. As I explained, it can add another layer of distance for some, but for me, it is just one more way I can connect with other people. And as you know, I’m all about relationships.
Going to the Imprisoned
This may mean visiting an actual detention centre, but there are many forms of imprisonment and many reasons someone finds him- or herself isolated from others – or at least feeling that way. This may not be apparent from someone’s appearance or interaction with others. However, if we take the time to get to know someone – to really know them – we may realize they are lonely even when they’re not alone. And that kind of imprisonment is around us every day.
Beyond Physical Needs
It is important to do my part to meet the physical needs of those around me, but each one of us has spiritual needs as well.
Who are the spiritually hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, and imprisoned? Who is the spiritual stranger?
The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6 ESV).
It is my responsibility to pursue righteousness – and by doing so, teach others to do the same.
“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:13-14 NIV).
This doesn’t mean that the physical life isn’t important or that it is something to be shunned, but it does mean there is a godly way to make provision for our physical needs. This takes a lifetime to learn and again, the best way for me to teach others is to do so by example.
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 ESV).
As I mentioned above, imprisonment can manifest in many different ways. The same is true with sickness. Those who are physically or mentally ill need the appropriate treatment. Those who are spiritually ill need the spiritual health that comes from a right relationship with God.
After the apostle Paul encountered the Lord Jesus, he spent his life making Him known no matter what obstacles he faced, including physical imprisonment. He never again, however, experienced spiritual imprisonment.
And who is the stranger the Bible speaks of?
Many of us know the story of “the good Samaritan” from Luke 10. Despite what preconceived ideas I may have of someone else, if I see them in need, it is my responsibility to show Christ-like love.
Why should I care for others?
“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 15:40 ESV).
And when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus answered . . .
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 ESV).
It isn’t that I believe in a gospel of good works (we can never be good enough to earn a place in heaven), but good works will overflow from a life surrendered to the King, Jesus Christ.
(Thanks to pixabay.com for the photos in this post.)