Jesus told a story once. It was about a woman, who we will call Ann.
Ann was a typical Christian woman. She did what she was supposed to do, married, raised a family, went to church, sang in the choir, worked in the nursery, and gave one tenth of her family’s income in the offering each month. She tried to remember to have her “quiet time” every day, and played Christian music at home and in the mini-van. She even led a ladies’ ministry for awhile, helped out with the youth as her kids got older, and kept herself and her children surrounded by good, godly friends.
One day, during her daily drive to her kids’ Christian school, Ann looked up and saw Jesus standing on a corner, holding a sign that said, “Hungry.” She wasn’t quite sure how to respond, because there are so many con-artists out there… you just never know. So she avoided his eyes and drove on by.
She didn’t think about it again, but on the way home, Ann again saw Jesus. This time, He was walking down the road with His bags of groceries. He was elderly, and she could tell He had a long walk ahead of Him; but she told herself He probably liked the exercise. And besides, you can never be too careful these days…
Ann got home and picked up the paper to read while she finished her morning coffee. She turned to the police arrest section, and there was Jesus. She recognized Him and called a friend to tell her to pray for the family. They chatted about how embarrassed His parents must be, and how, hopefully someone would minister to Him in jail and He would get His life straight. She didn’t really think about calling His mom to say,”How can I be there for you?” But she did remember to call a few friends to find out exactly what had happened so she could have her story straight when she requested prayer.
Later that evening, Ann and her husband went out for their occasional “date night.” As they walked downtown, enjoying one another’s company, keeping their marriage strong and healthy, they came upon Jesus sitting against a building, with a bottle in a brown paper bag. It was winter, and His clothes were thread-bare. She thought about how she would like to cover Him up with a coat or a blanket, but decided to just go on with date night instead… He’d probably just sell it for more booze anyway. Besides, they have shelters and soup kitchens for that very reason. If He really wanted help, He’d be there, right?
Years passed, and Ann grew old. She and her husband retired, played with their grandchildren, and went on outings with the senior group at church. Finally the day came when Ann took her last breath on earth and suddenly, there she was, before the throne of God. She was all prepared to hear , “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Imagine her shock then, when she heard Him say, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
What? You say you don’t remember that story in the Bible? Here, let me refresh your memory:
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation 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; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to 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? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been 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; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” ~ Matthew 25:31-46
Does it sound ridiculous, to think that Jesus would be walking down the side of the road with his groceries? Or sitting in a jail cell high on drugs? Or homeless and sleeping in a cardboard box? It sounded ridiculous to those Jesus was speaking to in this passage. Both groups asked, “When, Lord??” And yet what does He say? “If you did it to the least of these… you did it to Me.” But the far more profound statement is what Jesus says close to the end. This one breaks my heart even as I write…
“When you refused to care for the least of these… you refused to care for Me.”(v 45)
I. Refused. To help. JESUS.
This statement is one of the most devastating in Scripture. Currently, it wrecks me.
He simply says that those who claim the name of Christ do nothing to care for others around them, and in turn, He says they are not His disciples. “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Anyone else trembling yet?
Is He accusing them of not evangelizing enough? No. Has He condemned the style of their worship services? No. Did He say, “Sorry, but you didn’t speak in tongues and prophesy”? Nope. In fact, in Matthew 7:22-23, Jesus says:
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
He didn’t condemn what they wore, who they hung around with, what they chose to drink or eat, whether or not they had tattoos and piercings, what denomination they belonged to, or how little they served within the walls of the church. NONE of these things separated the true believers from those who only professed to believe.
What separated one group from the other was nothing more than their lack of concern for their fellow man – their refusal to meet the most basic needs of those around them. That’s it.
Refusing. To help. Jesus.
So you don’t know anyone in jail? Share a Coke and a conversation with the fatherless kid next door so he doesn’t end up there.
You don’t know a family in need of clothes? Take the clothes you’ve cleaned out of your closets and donate them to a charity that you know GIVES the clothes to those in need instead of selling them for profit.
You don’t feel equipped to feed the hungry? There are charities that do. Go volunteer your time occasionally – if nothing else, you will leave tremendously grateful for what you have, realizing that, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
There is need all around, everywhere we look. Recognize one, and meet it, in the name of Jesus. Let’s leave our Christian church bubbles and go where Jesus would go, do what Jesus would do, care the way Jesus would care.
Because, if we don’t, we will not inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus Himself said so.
If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have LOVE…
I. am. nothing.
(I Corinthians 13:2)