In Matthew 25, as Jesus talks about His return, and the final judgment of the world, it’s intimidating. I suppose it is one of those areas where we have to lean on His mercy and grace. I have stories of my obedience, and stories of my disobedience. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and welcoming the stranger are not always on the top of my priorities. A lot of my hesitation, when I get the opportunity to help, is how I was taught since I was a child. Don’t talk to strangers. Giving money to homeless people will allow them to buy alcohol and drugs. They won’t buy food with it. Don’t give rides to strangers. Don’t invite strangers anywhere, you’ll be killed or robbed or raped.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers 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, ‘I tell you the truth, 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.”
I’m in a quandry because I don’t think that Jesus will accept my excuses. We are to treat the least desirable people as if they were Jesus. If I obey Jesus in this, will I be protected? The most beautiful and powerful example of this life is Mother Teresa. As she said,
The fullness of our heart comes in our actions: how I treat that leper, how I treat that dying person, how I treat the homeless. Sometimes it is more difficult to work with the street people than with the people in our homes for the dying because they are peaceful and waiting; they are ready to go to God.
You can touch the sick, the leper and believe that it is the body of Christ you are touching, but it is much more difficult when these people are drunk or shouting to think that this is Jesus in His distressing disguise. How clean and loving our hands must be to bring that compassion to them!
Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, No Greater Love, MJF Books, New York, 1997, pp. 69-70
How do I live this life out? Can I live like this, in selfless and complete surrender to the protection and mercy of God, and serve and love the people that are so easily ignored? I struggle with two things in these situations.
How much do I give? Do I empty my wallet? Do I just give a few dollars? Or, the other extreme, do I give all my money and all my possessions and give them to the poor? Jesus told some to do that. Does He tell us all to?
Is this safe and actually helpful? I feel a lot better about giving money or clothes or time to an organization that is helping the homeless or needy. Sometimes though, walking down the street, and a homeless man or woman asks for money. Is it good to give money directly to those in need? Jesus didn’t specify that we should have a committee of oversight. He said that when we saw a need, we filled it, and doing so we were giving to Him.
Jesus also said that we invited in the stranger. I feel very uncomfortable thinking about seeing someone who needs a place to stay, and inviting them into my home. I can imagine that this would probably become an even stronger feeling if I were a mother, and my children needed my protection. Is it wrong to always be fearful of strangers? To expect the worst out of everyone?
I pray that God would give me great wisdom in this area.
What do you think about the lengths to go to help the least? Is safety an issue?