I understand that the concluding message of the Olivet Discourse found in the last portion of the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew pertains to events at the time of the setting up of the millennial kingdom; however, the principals set forth there have universal application. As such, I was struck recently by a portion of the message that had never strongly impacted me though I had read and studied the passage any number of times.
Heretofore, the positive aspect of the passage has impacted me. When the Lord gathers all the nations before Him and separates the sheep from the goats (by individuals within the nations), He blesses those who have fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and visited the imprisoned with the commendation that “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, he have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). But what struck me in my most recent look at this passage was the negative aspect of its message: “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me” (v. 45).
I was struck by the Lord’s love for “the least” of His. It is the tendency of human nature to love the lovely. Teachers love bright students. Coaches love skilled athletes. Bosses love accomplished employees. It takes a special heart to love the unlovely, the weak, the inept, the slow, the ugly. And yet it is just these that the Lord loves in particular.
I was struck by the Lord’s identification with “the least” of His. The Lord not only loves them, He also identifies with them: in serving those whom everyone has a tendency to ignore, He considers that we have served Him. What we do for the “down and out” we do for Him. Nearly everyone wishes to be kind to the rich and famous beautiful people, for the carnal hope is that they might provide some favor in return. But the one who serves the servants, knowing full well that there will be no return in kind has the mind of Christ. And it is with these lowly servants that Christ identifies. He does not say, “When you help a millionaire you have helped me” (though that is certainly a possibility). But He does say that what is done on behalf of “the least” in this world is a service He reckons as truly being rendered directly to Him.
I was struck by the importance of “the least” of His. The Lord clearly has a view that differs from the normal human view. To the natural mind, the movers and shakers of this world are important, the financially successful, the politically powerful, and the socially connected. But it is “the least” who have a direct pipeline to the Lord of heaven and earth. And what is more important than to know and be known by the God of heaven?
Mostly, I was struck by the seriousness of failing to serve “the least” of His. Our flesh might say, “Who will notice if I fail to help someone who has lost his job? Who will notice if I fail to visit the elderly in a nursing home, or care if I visit a forgotten invalid, or what does it matter if I don’t give the gospel to that raggedly-dressed child?” This passage makes the answer very clear. The Lord will notice and care. He will take our indifference personally. A failure to help them is a failure to help Him. And there is a steep price for such selfishness. This is not a message invoking the social gospel. This is a message provoking us to manifest love, humility, and service—wherever we are and to whomever we meet. For wherever the Lord has put us, it is to show forth His grace, to demonstrate His love, to testify of His salvation, and “in lowliness of mind” to “esteem other better” than ourselves.
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