My brilliant wife returns to the blogging world with me continuing to serve as her amanuensis.
Wait…you’re my what?
And what does that mean?!
Someone who writes something dictated or composed by another.
Don’t you know an easy word that means the same thing?
I can’t talk to you when you’re like this.
“Then the King will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, anything you did for
even the least of my people here, you also did for me.’” Matthew 25:40
Ethan and I work in a country filled with quite a bit of poverty. People work long hours to buy starchy (read: cheap and filling) food and rent small (read: one-room) apartments and houses filled with too many people. They purchase inexpensive, easily torn clothing, traveling long distances on public transportation to work in dirty conditions for little pay. Surely, one would think, these are the least to whom Christ was referring, yes?
What happens, though, when they become Christians? How do they reach out to someone “less” than they? After all, these new Christians are about as poor as it gets, so how can they give to someone who is less?
I’ve been thinking about this concept and I’ve been wondering about the literal translation we bring to our reading of Matthew 25:31-46. I wonder…what would happen if we were to interpret this section conceptually rather than physically? Let’s see how it might read:
“I was spiritually hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was lonely and you gave me companionship. I was hurting emotionally and you invited me in to your life. I needed someone to take time for me, and you did. I was sick and you looked after me. I was ignored by my community and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you spiritually hungry and feed you, or lonely and gave you companionship? When did we see you hurting and invite you in to our lives, or needing time from us and we gave it to you? When did we see you sick or ignored by your community and go to visit you?’
“And the King replied, “Every time you satisified the needs of another in a self-sacrificing way, you did it to me.”
I know this isn’t exactly what Jesus said, but I think it is consistent with His overall point; besides, the rest of the chapter is allegorical, so I think I am on safe ground here. Our Creator wants us to reach out to those less than us, those who have a need that we might be able to satisfy by sacrificing something of ourselves and our priorities.
As long as we were talking about people who need food or clothes, I was doing pretty good. Ethan is always telling me that my generosity impresses him, so I think I do alright at serving Christ that way. The literal and traditional understanding of this passage really isn’t that hard for me. However, the moment I began looking at the concept behind the words, I realized something: the “least” people in my life are not the poor or the hungry or those in prison. That is, it takes me almost no personal sacrifice to care for the thirsty or the hungry. As well, for my local Deaf Christian friends who are as poor as anyone I’ve ever met, their “least” has to be someone other than another equally poor individual.
My least are those who talk endlessly for hours about themselves and their problems. It is usually the same information every time. Their emotional need to matter to another person is something I can satisfy only by giving up my rights to my own time.
My least are those who take years to move past a crisis or a conflict they experienced. They need my time, my energy and ask for the same Biblical solutions over and over, and yet it is a part of their healing process.
My least are Christians who seemingly refuse to grow and change yet complain about their lives consistently. I would rather avoid them and just simply pray for them, but I don’t. Instead I sacrifice my time and raise my patience level, listening to them and continue to share Bible passages that apply to their lives in hopes they would get it one day.
As Ethan and I work among the Deaf here, we will guide them to understand this passage in a very basic way: sacrifice for the sake of others, these least among us, and in so doing serve the Lord we worship. Assistance may not always be in material form, but emotional needs leave more enduring scars than physical ones.
Being my ghost writer, of course!
Oh…you mean your a-m-a-n-u-e-n-s-i-s.