The Least

There is a political and social issue today that is based on Matthew 25:40

“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.’

The issue is about doing the most for the least, but there’s a “catch.”

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 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. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.”

Matthew 25:31-33

Those who do good to others are called sheep; those who fail to do so are goats.

This leaves me with a terrible feeling of discomfort and uneasiness because there is this growing belief within the church that one’s eternal salvation is determined by one’s acts of compassion for the physical needs of the downtrodden. So whenever we help the downtrodden, our entrance into heaven is all the more assured.

Permit me to reflect a bit on this. Helping is fine. It’s the moral thing to do. And charity within the Christian Church is never meant to be a winnowing, (a test)–giving according to the amount of guilt. Christians believe that God’s love and generosity towards humanity moves and inspires us to love and care first for those of our own who are in need. For that reason, a part of the expression of our faith is disciplined giving.

The truth is, the great separation (sheep and goats) will be done by Christ on the final day of His ministry. That we would single out the virtue of kindness to others as the single determining factor in God’s regard for us is offensive to God.

There was a rich young man that approached Christ with this offensive attitude.

What must I DO to inherit eternal life?” Wisely, Jesus responds rhetorically.

“What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”

Luke 10:26

He (the young man) answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Luke 10:27

Jesus assures him that if he does this, he will have fulfilled the law–that is, within his own mind. And to get this figured out correctly in his own mind, the young man asks,

“Who is MY neighbor?”

Luke 10:29b

Seizing the moment to teach His disciples a spiritual lesson, Jesus uses a parable. It’s a story that begins by using physical terms which we can understand and ends up guiding us into spiritual truth. Since God is truth, He is made visible to us through the Spirit. It is the Spirit that pronounces us guilt.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?

Psalm 130:3

The spiritual truth is we are all in need of the spiritual mercies of God, and Jesus uses the parable of the Good Samaritan to teach His followers that important lesson.

After sharing the parable of the Good Samariton, He turns and asks the young man, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:36-37

This is a terribly challenging command. “Go and do likewise if you think you can.” We always think according to ourselves. We can take a lesson from John the Baptist in self-abasement. When he was asked who he was, he turned to the book of Isaiah to give an answer.

“I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.”

John puts the human tendency of self-righteousness in perspective.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 1:29

Today we look to social priorities to guide us. Following them gives us social significance. But the spiritual lesson of the Good Samaritan is about what God does for us.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Just as the Good Samaritan showed mercy to the traveler by providing provisions, God shows mercy to us by giving us His Son. There is no righteousness of one’s own, only the righteousness Christ has won which one accepts daily through confession and faith.

The example of John the Baptist is a lesson in who is the least.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30

If there be any boasting, it is as the apostle Paul confesses.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20

The spiritual truth as taught in the parables is born out of one’s relationship to Jesus Christ.

“Every spirit that confesses that Jesus came in the flesh is from God. Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.”

1 John 4:2,3a.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17

Remember always that it is God who justifies.

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.

Hebrew 6:10

While serving a parish on the prairies of North Dakota, one of the favorite stories about God’s ways came from an old farmer by the name of Benny Nesteland. He was born in the northern part of Norway. Poor and destitute, in the midst of a violent snowstorm, there came a knock on their door. His father opened the door and there stood a man who begged for just a small bowl of wheat. They had only enough wheat meal for a few days, but he gave the man a small bag of wheat. As the man left, he turned and said, “You will have wheat abundant.”

Whenever Benny would tell that story, tears would well up in his eyes and the eyes of his wife Gerte as he would say, “And here I am an old man who grows hundreds of acres of wheat every year on the rich land of the Red River Valley.”

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