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Caring for the Poor: Ministry to Christ

The Least of These

If you knew that a certain habit or action had a direct, positive impact on Jesus Himself, would you do it more?

For a couple of months, we’ve been studying all of the biblical reasons for Christians to be about the business of caring for the poor, and specifically giving to meet their financial needs. The list of reasons is stacking up pretty high: Giving is a mandate from Christ, motivated by God’s love in us. It gets God’s attention, and is evidence to the world that our faith is real.

Giving is the most pure form of religion; it results in praise and thanksgiving to God. He would rather see us care for the poor than perfectly execute any other religious ritual.

If none of these arguments inspires you, though, maybe this one will: When we give to the poor, we are caring for Christ Himself.

The Least of These

For more on this, we turn to Matthew 25:34-40, where Jesus is telling His disciples about how He will judge people in heaven.

34 “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. 35 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, 36 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.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Jesus is describing a scene in the afterlife when He will commend the people that have been faithful to follow Him. He praises them for feeding and caring for Him when He was in need. When the faithful say that they don’t remember doing this, He explains what He means: When you care for the poor and needy on earth, it’s the same as caring for Christ Himself.

Taking It Personally

This passage is not saying that Jesus secretly walks the earth disguised as a poor person, quietly waiting to see who help Him out. Rather, He’s saying that He cares so much for the poor that He takes our actions toward them personally.

Think about it this way: If you have a child, a parent or a sibling that you love, and you hear someone insulting them, you’re likely to take that insult to heart. Although the statement isn’t directed at you, you feel the sting of it anyway.

Why? Because you love your family, and your love connects you to them. When they rejoice, you rejoice. When they suffer, you suffer.

What we see in this story, then, is just how much Jesus loves the poor. Although the world often mistreats or forgets the poor among us, Jesus is passionate about them and connected to them by a bond of love. He loves them so much, in fact, that He takes it personally when we treat them well.

He also takes it personally when we don’t treat them well at all.

Touching the Heart of Christ

For those of us who love God, then, this is another compelling reason to care for the poor. They are close to His heart. They are connected to Him.

When we hurt them, He feels their pain. When we care for them, provide for them and love on them, He feels love as well.

In the end, learning to be a generous giver is really about learning to see people the way that Jesus sees them. He cares about the poor so much that He left His heavenly position to come and dwell among them, healing their sicknesses, providing for their needs, and ultimately give His life to ransom them (and us) for eternity.

Jesus doesn’t walk around on this earth in the flesh anymore. Instead, He has dispatched us to do the things that He did when He was here. And that means caring for the people that He cared for.

When we give to the poor, we’re not only doing the work of Christ: We’re also touching the heart of Christ. That encounter makes a difference in our hearts, and reverberates in eternity.

Anything that we do for the least of people in this world, we do for Jesus Himself.

——

Photo by SpaceShoe. Used under Creative Commons License.

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  1. […] me wrong — God does want us to take care of the poor. He mentions its importance in scripture over and over and over and over and over again. But He wants us to do so with the right […]

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Copyright Brian Jewell, 2011-2013

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