You know who they are. The luckless losers. The broken, bruised, battered and bankrupt. The weak and worn. The sick and the unsanitary. The helpless and hungry. The convicted and the crazy. The tired, toothless and torn. The jobless junkies. The deceived and the deceivers. The least, left, lonely and lost.
The shadow dwellers, who like zombies come out in public, if at all, only under the cover of darkness to shop our grocery stores and wander under the stars safe from the sanctioning eyes and callous snubs of the clean and the normal. These are the least. And though we may not realize it, these are you and me but for the grace of God.
And, Jesus said, whether we care for them or ignore them will reveal the condition of our heart and thus, determine our destiny. Grace causes repentance, requires action and compels mercy. One day, God will hold us accountable for our compassion or lack thereof toward the least of these.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For 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.’
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
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.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
Perhaps you, like me, have more often been counted among the goats on the left who look the other way than you have been gathered with the hospitable sheep on the right. Guilty of a hard heart and disparaging, dismissive thoughts, we go about our days uninterrupted by those for whom we truly could not care less.
Father, forgive me and all those like me. Open our eyes. Help us to see that these are our neighbors, who are just like us. Help us to see you, Jesus, so that when you give us the next opportunity to meet a need for another, we do it for you.