Summary: When we use our gifts to meet the needs of the "least of these" we are doing it as unto the Lord.
Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches
September 7, 2003
“The Least of These”
INTRODUCTION: In today’s parable the people are divided up at judgment day as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. The sheep were on the right and the goats on the left. He speaks to those on his right and says, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
Then he goes on to say, “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.” The sheep, representing the people who were in right standing with God, were puzzled by this. They said, “When did we ever see you hungry and feed you? When did we ever visit you in prison, when did we ever...” And the Lord answered, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
On the other hand to those on the left, he said, “You didn’t bother to feed me when I was hungry, you didn’t invite me in, you didn’t look after me when I was sick...” They said, “When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or any of these other things?”
He answered, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
I don’t think we are always aware of what our role is in the PRACTICAL things toward helping other around us. There are acts of mercy that we all can do every day.
Story of the Deacon: An old deacon was leading in prayer using one of his same old phrases which was, “Oh, Lord, touch the needy with Thy Finger.” All of a sudden as he was praying, he stopped. The silence caused people to rush over to him and ask if he were ill.
“No, “ he said, “but something seemed to say to me, “Thou art the finger.”
So often we pray and ask God to TOUCH people--to do this and that for them--to meet a variety of needs that WE could assist with.
Let’s see what we can get out of this scripture that will help us to be used of God in a greater way this week.
1. The Least of These: We might wonder who he is referring to when he says, “the least of these brothers of mine.” Who do you think would be “the least”? You might say it’s the poor, the homeless person who is living on the street or under a bridge, it might be the person who is living on the fringe of society, or the person who is ostracized from society because of crimes they have done, people who can’t take care of themselves because of drug problems. It could be the little child who is abused. It could be anyone who is DIFFERENT FROM ME.
One definition of “the least of these” that I thought was good is “anyone who is IGNORED or OVERLOOKED.” This could be anyone at one time or another. Another one was--the least--in the ESTIMATION OF MEN.” People may be quick to say, “that person doesn’t amount to very much, not worth helping, of no value, write that person off.”
The “least of them” is not necessarily a “believer” but could be someone who doesn’t even know the Lord yet. It’s like “who is my neighbor?”
In the “estimation of man” we may have a picture in our mind of who is the “least” but we may not be entirely accurate. There are times when we ALL fall into this category. Think of a time when you have been hurting or in need and someone reached out to you or maybe they DIDN’T reach out to you. You might think of a time when you needed someone to talk to and someone was there for you, when you were worried about something and someone prayed for you or helped you in some practical way. When you moved to a new town and needed some friendship, for example.
STORY: A pastor received a letter one day from some people who had moved there from another town. It read:
“When my wife and I moved here three years ago, we felt the need to make contact with a local church. We hoped to make new friends. When we went to church we heard good sermons but our hope that we would make REAL CONTACT with our fellow Christians in the same pew came to nothing. We often left church as lonely as when we came in.”