“Opportunity to serve” November 22, 2020
( Guest Minister – Rev. Caesar J. David, Union Park United Methodist Church, Des Moines, Iowa)
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw 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 tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
“Opportunity to Serve”
“For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I
was a stranger, and you took me in. I was naked, and you clothed me. I was sick, and
you visited me. I was in prison, and you came to me” (vv. 35-36).
These words aren’t easy to understand in our context where we’re trying to understand
our roles and responsibilities. It raises many questions and issues:
Am I being called to be responsible for people around me in society?
What if they are different from me?
Am I allowed to set up a qualifier to sift the deserving from the undeserving?
Am I the person called to give, or the person that needs to receive, or both?
Let’s dig right into the Biblical insights we have from this important passage that links
our spirituality with social responsibility, the opportunities we have to see and serve
Christ. As we go through some of these insights some of our questions will be answered
and we’ll have some clarity, for others we must continue to explore and wrestle with
even as God speaks to us and puts His conviction in our hearts.
First of all we should regard these six deeds of mercy as illustrative rather than
5) Nursing care, and
Here are a few insights that we get from this passage we’re meditating on. It’s to get us
started thinking in the direction of expressing our faith in the social context we are in.
1. Each of the mentioned deeds meets a specific need of a particular needy person.
But there are other needs too and addressing those is as much service to people and to God as the ones mentioned here. For example, simple things such as a
kind word or a listening ear can help a person in despair. The possibilities for mercy are boundless, just as human needs are boundless. That means the
possibilities to serve as endless too.
2. Note the surprise of the mercy-givers. When the king tells them that they have
extended these mercies to him, they cannot imagine when that could have been.
While extending mercies to “the least of these” they had no idea that they would
be rewarded for their kindness. There was no calculation in their generosity.
They gave because they were moved by human need—not by the potential for
3. Jesus gives a clear answer to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
(Genesis 4:9). The short answer is “Yes”! The questions we’re also being asked
today are “Did you obey the Great Commandment?” “Did you love God and
neighbor?” (Matthew 22:34-40). Our horizontal (with each other / other people)
relationships are important just as our vertical (with God) relationship is. Matthew
5:23-24 even says don’t try to please me / don’t worship me if you have
something against your brother. “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the
altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against
you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them;
then come and offer your gift.” The important thing is that we need to obey the
Great Commandment not out of obligation or feeling trapped or forced, but out of
a feeling of privilege like a benevolent child of the King would feel when able to.
Our action must also be motivated by the ethic of the Golden Rule (Matthew
7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this
is the Law and the Prophets.): that we would treat others the ways we want to be
treated. If we were without food, wouldn’t we welcome a hot meal? If we were
without housing, wouldn’t we welcome shelter?
4. There is a time when we fed, clothed, visited, cared for one of the least of these,
and another time when we drove past, looked away, or pretended not to see the
man or woman holding a sign asking for food, work, or some other help. And we
have our reasons for what we did and what we didn’t. We must remember that
Jesus is not teaching a system in which our works make us righteous or blessed.
No one is always able to be responsive to the needs of others. And no one is so
hard-hearted as to never care about others. The point is that God, the ultimate
judge, does notice what we do and don’t do. One of the ways in which we can
serve God is by taking care of the needs of other people.
5. We are to focus on the sufferings of people and not their identity. For the Christfollower there is no room for discrimination, no room for hatred, no room for
holding grudges, no room for judgment. We must be concerned about what
people are going through, that’s all.
6. When we focus on the sufferings of people we will find several approaches to
alleviating the suffering. Our efforts can range from direct charity to advocacy
and lobbying for systemic changes. All these are important. Our debates will
continue. The systems thinker say “If you give a man a fish he will eat that day,
but if you teach him how to fish he’ll eat everyday”. The person that believes in direct charity says “If you don’t give him fish today, he won’t survive tomorrow to
need any fish ever again”. They’re both right. Fortunately, if both of them do what
they think is right, the man they’re seeking to help will eat a fish today AND learn
to fish so he can eat tomorrow too.
7. We’re called to see Christ in needy people. The trouble can be at several points:
a. We don’t see people because we’re too wrapped up in ourselves and we
have no connection with anyone outside of myself and my immediate
b. We don’t see the needs of people because we don’t understand their
situation or maybe because we don’t want to see their need.
c. We don’t see the spiritual connection. We don’t see Christ in these needy
people. We may prefer to confine our spirituality to personal prayers and
I think from these insights we have enough material to think about –
The kind of spirituality we practice
The kind of expression we give to our Christian discipleship, and
The opportunities we have to honor and serve Christ our Lord.
May God bless us to be His eyes of compassion, His heart of love, His Hands of mercy,
healing and help.
P R A Y E R
Thank you for the opportunities we have to honor you and serve you. Open our eyes to
see you in the least of our brothers and sisters. As we affirm your Reign on earth as
Christ our King, we pray that we would be used to build your Kingdom of Love and Peace.