Benevolence – Serving The Least of These with Compassion

Jesus invites us into action, serving “the least of these.” Ask anyone today about their employment and you’re apt to hear high profile name dropping or executive jargon that will leave your head spinning and your self-worth plummeting. Such chest-puffing exercises dominate human impulses throughout history.

Several years ago at my son’s graduation, a group of a few dozen students proved the benefits of serving the least of these. This class lived out the principle throughout their public education from kindergarten to grade 12. A young boy with terminal illness co-existed with them — always facing limitations, often hospitalized for extended periods. The disease stole his life before he was able to graduate. The impact he had on his classmates and their families continues to be felt.

Unlike other graduation exercises I attended, a golden thread of their prevailing culture firmly translated into serving the least. They loved, cared for, assisted, supported and valued this young man holding him in high esteem.

“. . . ‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did for one of the least of
these brothers and sisters of mine,
you did for me.'”
Matthew 25:40

Benevolence

The expectation of Jesus goes far beyond the normal standards and expectations of benevolence. In North America those seeking public assistance supply perks to propel the “haves” of society to share with the “have-nots” — tickets, gift baskets, banquets and more.

Jesus observed similar practices in His day — elegant celebrations given exclusively for friends, brothers and sisters, relatives and rich neighbors. All those invited could return the favor, perhaps with a bonus. He calls His followers further,

“When you give a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled,
the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed . . .”
Luke 14:13,14

Caring for the Poor

Perhaps the repayment would not be returned in kind but rather the status of association or public approval as part of the in-crowd. Who am I anxious to serve? Am I serving those who somehow benefit me or am I serving the least?

I’m asking myself these searching questions. Have I learned these lessons after many decades of living that my son effectively learned through his shared years in a classroom with someone who could never possibly repay or return the favor?

It Was Me!

Jesus makes a profound statement,

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,
. . . thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
. . . a stranger and you invited me in,
I needed clothes and you clothed me,
. . . was sick and you looked after me,
I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Matthew 25:35-36

The confused crowd asked, “How? When? What!” Such thinking so contravened their entrenched mindset that they were unable to connect the dots between their actions to others and their relationship with Christ. Jesus wasn’t talking to hooligans and renegades; He spoke such clarity to the righteous!” (vs 37)

Soldier Giving

The parable represented people like me, writing this blog, and you, reading it. Normal, good people living their lives in the best way they knew how. Yet, in their living, they were somehow unable to see Jesus among the throngs of people.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you,
whatever you did not do for one of the least of these,
you did not do for me.'”
Matthew 25:45

The Least of These

I don’t know about you, but I need a constant reminder to look for Jesus in the eyes of every person I encounter, knowing they belong to God and are made in His image.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.”
Psalm 24:1

Hospital Burundi

Do I see the face of Jesus in the eyes of the oppressed? Or am I looking for hands that will hold me up, voices that increase my value, or credentials that puff my reputation? The subtleties hidden from my own heart lay vibrantly clear and exposed to Christ.

One of the toughest places I choose to work is in the justice system, caring for people at crisis moments, arrested for crimes they’ve committed. Among them are thieves, abusers, addicts. Why? Because I’m especially gracious or caring? Not at all!!! Serving the least continuously stretches me beyond any personal capacity. It’s what Jesus asks of me.

As I write, I weep. Images of humanity, broken and disconnected, flash through my memory; disconnected from God and love. Each person teaches me something about myself that I would rather not see or be reminded of. Serving the least must become so ingrained in me that it flows naturally out of my love for Jesus. I’m not there yet. Honestly, I may never get there.

Sometimes seeing the reflection of Christ in those I would far rather hate, comes with an emotional price tag. I’m constantly reminded that Christ poured Himself out and died for this one — this lost and broken one in front of me. Just as the blood of Jesus covered over all my sins, it covers theirs too. They just don’t know Him yet.

Prison Fence

Serious Business

Jesus ends the parable by speaking to those who refuse to see Him in the face of the needy,

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment,
but the righteous to eternal life.”
Matthew 25:46

He recognizes those who are His by how they treat the least among them. The righteous cast an eternal focus. Temporary elevations of status from the who’s-who-crowd pale. “What’s in it for me?” never enters their mind.

Like my son’s classmates, loving the least became a daily overflow of living life together. They never viewed it as sacrifice to push a wheelchair through the mud instead of playing on the soccer field. They refused self-centered agendas and self-promoting values. Not one of them measured their actions in eternal rewards. They joyously spent their time serving the one among them.

The Challenge

May I challenge you today as God challenges me? Who is the one? Who is the least of these God desires you to feed, give a glass of water to, invite into your home, clothe, visit or care for?

“For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink
because of your name as followers of Christ,
truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward.”
Mark 9:41

 

Brothers serving each other

Many will scamper to provide for a person of high profile; the one who holds power and authority. Jesus confronted the Pharisees for the way they publicized similar actions.

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness
in front of others to be seen by them.
If you do, you will have no reward
from your Father in heaven.”
Matthew 6:1

Few people consistently care for the least of these. Be assured, if you do, no one will notice — no one should. No one will commend you for the unseen grace and mercy you offer.

In thirteen years together, I wonder how many unpublicized acts of kindness were demonstrated within my son’s classroom. Countless, I’m sure! They learned well the lessons that I struggle to master, touching the life of the one among them.

“Bravo!” Jesus declares to each of you, now grown and many grey-haired, “Well done! May you always remember the joy of serving the least.”

The Lord is my Helper! “I Will Help You!”

The Lord is my Helper!

One of the first bible passages I learned was “The Lord is my Helper!” These words continue to hold promise with ever deepening meaning.

So we can say with confidence,
“The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear…”
Hebrews 13:6

In some aspects, I can have an over confidence in my own strength, knowledge or ability. However, when I ask God for His help, the difference He makes is remarkable.

Every year possesses milestones of accomplishment that are tangible evidence of God’s every present help in my life. Sometimes He uses those closest to me; often He comes beside me in a way only He is capable of.

Help from Others

As a grandmother, I never grow weary of hearing our grandchildren or even grown children ask for help, especially in the area of prayer. Such requests affirm worth and significance. They unite us in a stronger family community. Both natural and spiritual families help each other!

Family

When I was young, my older brother and I enjoyed climbing trees. On one such occasion, I was dressed in my Sunday best complete with black patent shoes. Of course my footing slipped on the rough branch and down I fell. The silver buckle of one shoe caught a twig and held me suspended midair, upside down.

By brother, anxious to help, undid the buckle. Head first I plunged to the ground below. With one broken arm and a few minor scrapes, I proceeded to the house to confess my errors and accept the consequences.

Some kinds of help are a little more valuable than others!

Some kinds of help are a little more valuable than others! Click To Tweet

Although my brother had good intentions, he wasn’t the wisest helper. He did manage to get me out of the tree, but not safely to the ground. The doctor who reset the break and provided a cast was more beneficial!

Independence

One of the greatest hindrance to asking for and receiving help is our independence.

I can manage!
Sure! I can do this on my own!
Got it!
No thanks!
Here, let me do it for you!

Parenting includes training and developing our children to be able to function independently from us, leading productive and purposeful lives. Of course, this is necessary.

Yet independence can seriously hinder our relationship with the Heavenly Father.

Independence

One of the keys to living spiritually productive and purposeful lives is leaning into God and laying aside our independent ways. Beyond a doubt, relying on His strength, wisdom and power gives us the confidence to walk boldly.

A Process

I never allowed my brother to “help” me out of another tree; I learned I could not completely trust his judgment!

God, however, can be trusted completely as our Helper.

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen,
you descendants of Abraham my  friend,
I took you from the ends of the earth,

    from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant;
    I have chosen you and have not rejected you.”
Isaiah 41: 8-9

Jacob’s name means “one who trips up or overthrows another”. It was a fitting name since he robbed his brother Esau of his birthright twice. Jacob’s life was a journey of trusting and allowing God to change his heart and motivation before he could rightly receive the name change to Israel, one who wrestles with God.

God never abandoned him in his process. He won’t forsake us either! He is committed to help see us through our  personal journey!

Metamorphosis

We are not yet what we are going to be. As we continue to rely on Him, He will bring us through to maturity.

The Lord my Helper

Just in case I don’t understand the first time, God continually makes Himself known and available:

“I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand … I w
ill help you.
Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
    little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.”
Isaiah 41:10-14

 

Bear Needing Help

I recognize daily my continuing need the Lord’s help. Sometimes, I need far more help than I even realize!

With patience He affirms,

“Here I am! I can help you with that!
Looks like you could use a little help!
I could be so much help to you right now!
MaryAnn, I am your Helper!
If I help you, you will be so helped you will be able to help those around you.
Really? Nothing is too small or big for Me to help you with!
Let me help
! I, Myself, will help you!
You have no idea how helpful my helping can be!”

Sounds so ridiculously easy, but it is true!

God, Our Present Help

“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.”
Psalm 46:1

The Lord is my Helper

I aim to capture the childlike quality of willingly asking and accepting my Heavenly Father’s help. Only when I draw close and lean into His powerful and sufficient strength will I fully realize what we can accomplish together.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Click To Tweet

If the past is any indication, His help will be unbelievably amazing in the future!

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Further Reading: Psalm 91 – God Has You Covered

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