The Least of These, Part 3

Least of theseMatthew 25:37-40 “Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38  When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?39  Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

Open hand.jpegDeuteronomy 15:7-11,  If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:  But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.  Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD against thee, and it be sin unto thee. 10  Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. 11  For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.

Psalm 82:3-4, Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.  Deliver the poor and needy: rid them out of the hand of the wicked.

Proverbs 19:17, He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.

Stopping earsProverbs 21:13, Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.

Luke 18:22, Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.

Above are just a few of the literally hundreds of passages in the Bible that deal with this matter of caring for the poor. This matter of showing compassion and care towards the poor, whether “around the corner” or “around the world,” is no small matter in the eyes of the God we claim to serve. This truth is presented clearly, both in the Old and New Testament – both to God’s Old Testament people, as well as God’s New Testament people. And there are very few topics in all of scripture that are emphasized more than this truth!

It is very clear that God EXPECTED His people to be a generous people, especially when it came to meeting the needs of the poor, the needy, and the marginalized (Jesus referred to these as “the least of these”) peoples of the world.

In fact, as one author put it,

“You can always identify the righteous by their attitude and actions toward the least of these. Always!”

Of course, in this quote above, this author, no doubt, had Jesus’ own words in Matthew 25 in mind when he penned the words above.

Children in povertyAs one author noted, “One billion children in our world live in poverty. That doesn’t simply mean they have no Internet access or nice homes. It’s more than the fact that they are hungry or have inadequate clothing. It means they’re desperate; it means they are children being sold—or selling themselves. It means some are living in prison conditions more deplorable than you can imagine. It means twenty-one thousand children die of preventable causes every day. Twenty-one thousand children. Our God loves every one of them deeply, passionately, and he calls us to be the hands, feet, and heart of that love. He calls all of us to live out his love for them.”

He continues with the following words, “In northeastern Brazil, in Thailand, in India, and in a thousand other places around our globe, adolescent prostitution plays a major role in regulated and unregulated commerce. Every year in Brazil, 250,000 adolescent and preadolescent girls enter the sex trade. And child prostitution is just one face of the problem for those Jesus called ‘the least of these.’ Starvation, human slavery, entire people groups in refugee camps, profound generational poverty, imprisonment in subhuman conditions. Not exceptional; it is the normative for millions—perhaps billions—of people. Take a look at the numbers: 2: Number of children murdered each month inside the walls of one children’s prison in Brazil. 29: In the time it took you to read the previous page, twenty-nine children died of preventable causes. 1,100,000: More than one million children are locked in prisons, usually in subhuman conditions: block-wall and steel-bar cells with little light or outside air. Their toilet, a hole cut in the concrete in a corner of the cell.”

Another author wrote the following words:

Blind spot 2Not long ago God began uncovering a blind spot in my life. An area of disobedience. A reality in God’s Word that I had pretended did not exist. More aptly put, I had lived as if it did not exist. But God brought me to a place of confession before him, before my family, and before the faith family I lead. Today more than a billion people in the world live and die in desperate poverty. They attempt to survive on less than a dollar per day. Close to two billion others live on less than two dollars per day. That’s nearly half the world struggling today to find food, water, and shelter with the same amount of money I spend on french fries for lunch. More than twenty-six thousand children today will breathe their last breath due to starvation or a preventable disease. To put it in perspective for me, that’s twenty-six thousand Joshuas and Calebs (my two sons). To put it in perspective for the church I pastor, if this were happening among the children in my community, then every child eighteen years or younger in our county would be dead within the next two days.…

Blind spotFrighteningly, though, I have turned a blind eye to these realities. I have practically ignored these people, and I have been successful in my ignorance because they are not only poor but also powerless. Literally millions of them are dying in obscurity, and I have enjoyed my affluence while pretending they don’t exist. But they do exist. Not only do they exist, but God takes very seriously how I respond to them. The book of Proverbs warns about curses that come upon those who ignore the poor. The prophets warn of God’s judgment and devastation for those who neglect the poor. Jesus pronounces woes upon the wealthy who trust in their riches, and James tells those who hoard their money and live in self-indulgence to weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon them.

Sobering words, that’s for sure!

So, I guess the question worth pondering as we read these words, is simply, “What is the church of the Living God doing about this great need ‘around the corner’ and ‘around the world?’ Better yet, ‘What am I doing about it?’”

“Where have we any command in the Bible laid down in stronger terms, and in a more peremptory urgent manner, than the command of giving to the poor?”      – George Whitfield

Just Reflecting on The Least of These!!!

One thought on “The Least of These, Part 3

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