Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

Free Will and Jesus

Author: Rachel Kidd

What is free will? 

Writing on or discussing free will can feel more like playing the game Operation than a relaxing day at the beach. Tedious like a dissection, trying to understand free will can end in a pulsing headache rather than clarity. Here, we are discussing the issue of choice and what Jesus tells us about the power of free will, as well as the freedom and responsibility that comes with it to provide you with a clearer understanding of free will.  


Free will is the power to decide how you will react or what you will do in any given situation. The beauty of being human is the freedom to make new decisions daily, to make and commit to our promises, and to practice personal autonomy. If you’re miserable at your job, there’s nothing stopping you from quitting. If you feel stuck in your hometown, you can move tomorrow. If you want to get back into running, you can tie on sneakers right now and hit the pavement.  


Yet, our choices usually have limitations placed upon them, whether they be circumstantial or capped by wisdom. You might not be able to quit your job, because you need to be able to pay your bills and support yourself. You might not be able to afford to move out of your parent’s house. You might not be physically able to run anymore, due to injury or age. Maybe these choices are all technically within your power, yet it isn’t wise to make them right now or at all.  


You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’—but not everything is beneficial”  

–1 Corinthians 10:23 


This verse reminds us that all choices have consequences. Just because you can do something, doesn’t necessarily mean you should. We should be thinking about the implications of our decisions and if they are wise. Considering the timing and prayerfully considering God’s will can help us make good decisions and exercise responsibility with the great freedom we are given.  


But as Chrstians, we are also committed to make decisions with love and consideration for others. Our choices don’t just impact our own lives, but they can reverberate to the lives of others. When we make a big move or quit a job, we might be alienating friends and family or inconveniencing your team. While it may be a good choice for you, it might be negatively impacting people around you.  


The very next verse in the chapter tells us this, reminding us that we are to also be considerate of others.  


Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others  

—1 Corinthians 10:24 

Verses on Free Will  

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. 

John 7:17 


John tells us that we have the ability to choose to do the will of God, confirming that if we choose to do so, we will find truth. The key word here is choice, indicating that we have the ability to follow the will of God or not.  


For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified —Romans 8:29-30 


In Romans, we are told that God knew beforehand who will be saved by His son. He then predestined them for sanctification and salvation. This aligns with what we know about God, that He is omniscient and just. We see that God is not pre-selecting, rather He simply knows what will happen. This allows people to still be held responsible for their actions on earth, while still revering God as the ultimate authority.  


No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. –-1 Corinthians 10:13 


Paul reminds us of God’s faithfulness through temptation and the promise of His power. I think about the fact that Jesus became man and faced all the same trials and temptations as us. He shares that common humanity with us and is truly able to empathize with our plights. He is both God and man, understanding the struggle to remain in the will of God and possessing the ability to spare us.  


This verse embodies the free will question to me, explaining that we have the choice to succumb to temptations, but that God also provides a way out for us. We are not merely puppets controlled by a distant puppet-master, rather we are autonomous individuals with the ability to seek guidance from the almighty God.  

Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Studying the Bible

What is forgiveness? 

Author: Rachel Kidd 

We all want to be forgiven for our mistakes. When we bump into someone at the grocery store or forget about an important date, we usually want to be forgiven as quickly as possible. For little blunders, like stepping on someone’s toe, typically, a quick “I’m sorry” is met immediately with “that’s okay,” and all is forgiven. More egregious errors, like a car accident, usually take longer to be resolved and time for the relationship between the offender and the offended to be restored. Because we are human, we often struggle through our anger, hurt, and pride to forgive and be forgiven by others.   

Forgiveness is an intentional decision to let go of our resentment and anger towards someone else for an action that hurt us. It allows us to be in a continued, restored relationship with that person without hurt eroding it. When resentment is allowed to build up, it eats away at the fabric of the relationship and eventually destroys it.  

Forgiveness is essential to both interpersonal relationships and our relationship with God. Because of our sinful nature, we are inherently separated from the close relationship we were designed to have with God the Father. God cannot tolerate sin, no matter how much He loves us. This is why Jesus died to restore that relationship, forgiving all our sins that hurt God.  

 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. –1 John 1:9 

The Bible tells us that if we confess our sins and believe in the Lord, He will forgive us.  

Verses on Forgiveness 

We were shown incredible grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ and the scripture reminds us repeatedly that we are intended to extend this grace to others.  

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. —Ephesians 4:32 

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. –-Colossians 3:13  

And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ 

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. —Matthew 6:12-14  

This section of the Lord’s Prayer, where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, specifically asks God to forgive us as we have forgiven others. It is a reminder to be constant in both asking for and extending forgiveness to others. It also indicates the importance of forgiveness, that it was included in the model Jesus gave us for prayer. He intentionally modeled and spoke about forgiveness, emphasizing how crucial it is in a faithful walk with God.  

What does it look like to forgive as Jesus forgave us?  

Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor 

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” 

 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! 

“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt. 

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt. 

“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment. 

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full. 

When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 

 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.” —Matthew 18-21-35 

 Jesus tells Peter that we should forgive people “seventy times seven” times, extending a more than generous amount of grace. He then explains this concept in the form of a parable through the relationship between a master and his servant, who owed him a great deal of money. The servant is clearly in over his head, unable to even fathom repaying the debt to his master. He begged for pity and patience. His master did feel pity for the man, choosing to forgive him of his debt entirely.  

But the man then leaves and encounters another servant who owed him some money. He is angry and demands repayment, even when the other servant tells him that he is unable to pay. The man has the other servant arrested and shows no mercy. Hearing of his actions, the master rebukes the servant and tells him that because he showed mercy on him, he should have done the same to his fellow servant. As punishment, the master sends him to prison, destined to be tortured until his debt is repaid in full.  

Jesus gives us a glimpse here of our fate without forgiveness. He says that if we refuse to forgive others, we are destined to be judged for eternity. Because we were so graciously forgiven and Jesus paid our debts, shouldn’t we extend that same forgiveness to our friends and family, even strangers?  

Jesus is the ultimate example of forgiveness, the one who died so that all my sins could be forgiven and my relationship with God the Father would be fully restored. I know I sin every day, and I am far from perfect, but I still long for that forgiveness so I can be in a relationship with God. How can I then turn to a friend and refuse to forgive them for hurting me? How much more has God forgiven me? Jesus reminds us that our debts have been forgiven, debts that we could never even begin to repay. He urges us to lend that same forgiveness to others, giving them the gift that has been so generously given to us.  

Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

In the Wilderness of Life

Author: Charles Hegwood

There is a wilderness motif in the Bible. Therefore, it is no accident that Jesus was led out into the wilderness right after His baptism. It is here in Matthew chapter 4 that Jesus fasts and is tempted by the tempter, Satan. It is a story of Jesus’ faithfulness as the Son of God. But why was He tempted? Could it be that it was to demonstrate that Jesus was sinless? Sure, and he was sinless. Could it be that Jesus was doing something symbolic? Jesus’ trip to the wilderness was a mirror of the trip that Israel took in Exodus and Numbers. Jesus fasted for 40 days. Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus faced the temptation of not trusting God’s Word, testing God, and worshiping other gods. Those were the same three tests that Israel failed. We need to read Matthew 4: 1-10 in light of Exodus and Numbers. Jesus will show what it looks like to trust God and love Him above all other things.  

Obeying God’s Word 

“If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” 

Why bread? Surely Jesus would have been more tempted with turning the rocks into a steak dinner. Well, first century bread was not like the manufactured Wonder bread of today. First century bread was life sustaining. It was a staple food. Therefore, to a man who had not eaten in forty days this was a real temptation. His mouth may have watered just thinking about bread.  

So what is the connection with Jesus, bread, Israel, and us? Remember, God is telling His people what it looks like to trust Him fully. Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. He fasted for forty days, I struggle with an hour. We find Jesus weak and hungry. Satan encourages Jesus to turn the rocks into bread. Will Jesus trust the Father or listen to the tempter? His stomach growls for food, but is God’s goodness more important than the physical pain of hunger?  

Remember, Israel grumbled continuously in the wilderness about food. God gave them manna, like bread from heaven. God gave them quail when they complained about the manna. They complained and did not trust that God knew what was best for them. Read Exodus 16 and Numbers 11 for reference. Israel questioned God’s provision. But where Israel failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus quotes scripture that man cannot live by bread alone, but must rely on God’s Word. Israel did not rely on God’s Word. For Jesus, God’s Word was life-giving and life-sustaining. God’s Word was His staple food. It is our’s as well. Whether we know it or not. We are like Israel. Will God’s Word be the life-sustaining answer to our spiritual hunger?  

 Do not Test God  

The next test was the temptation to test God. Exodus and Numbers are full of Israel testing God in the wilderness. They tested God for the same reasons that we do. We do not fully trust that God is good for us. Jesus was faced with the proposition of jumping off from a high place since He knew the angels would catch Him. This would have been a test of God’s goodness. Jesus very clearly again quoted scripture, that we should not test our God. Again Jesus has succeeded where Israel failed. It is where we often fail.  

We are prone to test God. Jesus was doing more than merely showing us how to use scripture in times of temptation, though it is important and powerful to do so. Jesus is faced with testing if the Father would do all that He promised. This test would have denied the myriads of evidence that shows God’s goodness. This is a test of God’s authority. Jesus does not need to question God’s authority or love for Him with a test. Instead, Jesus trusts that the Father is good. Let us do the same. See the evidence of God’s goodness in your life. 

Do not Worship Other gods  

In the final test Satan pulls out all of the stops. He, that is Satan, showed Jesus all of the Kingdoms of Earth and promised to give it to him if only Jesus would bow and worship him. I have always found this to be ironic, since Jesus already knew that He was the King of Kings. What a feeble attempt to tempt Jesus. But Jesus must face this temptation. Israel did in the wilderness and throughout their history. We do too. We face and often fall into the worship of so- called gods. If we were promised the world, would we bow? Or would we trust that God is good and He is enough for us? Would being a child of God be more exhilarating than having dominion over a world that is fading?  

Jesus will not bow. He shows that God is good and to be worshiped above idols. Again I restate that Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. Israel turned to idols in the desert. When they worshiped the golden calf in Exodus, they were telling God, “you are not enough, we do not trust your goodness.” They sinned. Through Jesus’ obedience, He has redeemed their sin and He has redeemed our sin too. Cast out those idols and like Jesus worship God alone.  

The Wilderness and Us  

The Bible has a wilderness motif that runs throughout it. Jesus’ trip to the wilderness was no coincidence. His trip was a parallel to Israel. So as we wrap up this discussion, we look at those parallels one more time. Israel was meant to be a beacon of light leading people to worship God. They failed. Jesus entered the wilderness as the Light and He succeeded, proving that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Our lives are like the wilderness. We have tests and trials that will lead us to run to God and say, “He is good, He is enough for me” or will lead us to run to the idols of this world. What do we do when we are in the wilderness? We look to Jesus. Look at how He loved God through the tests and trials. We have a model of how to be obedient. We also have a portrait of grace and hope because we follow and worship the one who has overcome the wilderness. Let us live in obedience holding on to the love that we have in Jesus, our Great Redeemer. 

Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

Kingdom Minded Prayer

Author: Charles Hegwood

We do not often equate the Kingdom of God and our prayer life. We must answer the question of what does Kingdom minded prayer look like for the life of a follower of Jesus. Of course it should come as no surprise that Jesus has answered this question in several gospels. For example in Luke Jesus is modeling how to pray for His disciples. In Matthew, the focus of our discussion today, the context is the Kingdom of God. As we begin to dig into Matthew 6:5-15, we will see what a kingdom minded prayer is not and what it is. The main idea of our discussion is that unlike the hypocrites we should pray to the Father with His honor and Kingdom in mind.These are the prayers God hears and they change the way we talk with others.  

What Kingdom Prayer is Not  

Interestingly, before Jesus told His disciples what prayer is, He first reminded them of what it is not. If it was important for Jesus it must be important for us as well. People were praying. Prayer was not a new concept to the first century Israelite or the Gentile. But not all prayer is created equal. According to Jesus we should avoid praying to achieve adoration from others. This problem is not so foreign to us today. Imagine the person who stands up to pray and they give a great elegant prayer that is more of a performance than it is a genuine prayer. In Jesus’ day people would pray to be seen as holy and respected. Jesus’ response is to pray in private. Now Jesus is not suggesting that public prayer is wrong. The problem was the attitude of the person praying. Your attitudes toward your prayer are important too. Attitudes and motives matter. Remember, as we will soon see, we pray not to others, but to an audience of one; the Father.  

The second way not to pray is to not babel on and on. You may have experienced this. This is the person who gets up to pray and rambles. It is a salad of words and ideas. The use of the word ‘babel’ has the connotation of trying to capture God’s attention. This is a sputtering of words with the hopes of manipulation and pestering God. Jesus warns there is no need for this. The Gentiles pray in vain anyway. The Father listens to His children. You do not have to use many words or even fancy words to capture His attention or bend His arm. After all, God knows what you need before you ask. These are two attitudes and ways to not approach the Father. Then how are we to pray?  

What Kingdom Prayer is 

The word ‘therefore’ connects to what we just read and discussed which then progresses the conversation to what Jesus is about to say. Jesus will now utter the words that many a person can recite without much thought. I prayed this prayer with my marching band every Friday and Saturday during the Fall in my High School years. I often wondered if half of the people praying that prayer had given much thought to what it means. Have I? Have you? The ‘Lord’s Prayer’ is much more than just a prayer to recite; it is a guide to deep conversation with the Father.  

“Our Father”  

Words we say and so often overlook. We have become so desensitized to calling God Father that it does not mean much anymore. However, when Jesus told His disciples that Kingdom-minded prayer began with calling on God as Father, this was revolutionary. You would not have called God ‘Father.’ They did not think of God in this way. Yet Kingdom-minded prayer prays to our Father. We get to call Him Father. Marvel at the fact that we get to call on the King and creator of the universe Father. We are His family. We are His children. Pray not to a distant God in hopes that He may hear. Instead, call on a God who comes near and desires to be close to us. That should cause us to sit in amazement.  

“Your name be honored as holy.”  

We pray for the honor and glory of our Father. We do not pray from selfish ambition. The goal and hope of every prayer is that God would be lifted high. After all, this is how Jesus prayed while on earth. We want to realize that the Father is set apart from creation and perfect in all ways. As we pray kingdom-minded prayers we must keep God’s goodness and holiness at the forefront of our minds.  

“Your Will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

  As we pray with the kingdom of God in mind, we pray for God’s will to be done. It will be done regardless of our prayer, but the beauty is that Jesus is welcoming us into the workings of the Father when we pray. We get to pray to unleash the will of God. We pray with the Kingdom in mind. We pray then with a purpose. What do I mean? Our prayers are not aimless and wandering, but driven with the glory of God and His purpose in mind. May we capture a kingdom vision for our prayers.  

“Give us our daily bread.”  

It is okay, even welcomed, to pray for our provisions. Kingdom-minded prayer incorporates what we need to accomplish God’s goals in this life. Jesus was preparing His disciples for a life of on the go ministry.  

Application of Kingdom-minded Prayer 

Wait, you skipped verse 12 and 13, you may be thinking. Well not quite. Verse 12 and what follows becomes the way prayer impacts our daily life. It changes the way we talk to other people. As we ask the Father for forgiveness we also forgive others as well. Look at verse 14 for reference. Jesus locked in on our forgiveness of others reflecting the heart of someone who prays to be forgiven and to forgive. Our prayers are not to be empty. They have purpose. Our prayers should promote change in our lives in how we interact and forgive others.  


As we conclude our discussion of kingdom-minded prayer, we must realize that the follower of Jesus prays differently than the world. The glory and Kingdom of God drive our prayers. Our prayers drive us to engage the world around us as one who has truly met with the Father, the King of all Creation. This conversation with the Father leads us to forgive and show God’s love to a lost and dying world. Your prayer life will be reflected in your daily life. 


Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar, Thief

Author: Rachel Kidd

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. —Luke 16:10-13 

In Luke, Jesus outlines his ministry and His purpose for us in a manifesto, or Gospel. His message is clear; He proclaims healing and freedom for people who are bruised and in bondage. His proclamation, proof, and practice of this Gospel are evident throughout the book of Luke. Jesus is constantly recruiting followers, challenging apostles like Peter to join Him in his Gospel.  

In Luke 16, Jesus continues His Gospel message by telling two parables about rich men. Both these parables should be seen in the context in which Jesus taught the parables of the lost things in chapter 15. Jesus addressed these two parables to His disciples, but He obviously intended these two stories for the Pharisees as well.  

 The first parable, known as “The Parable of the Unjust Steward,” is often misunderstood as an endorsement of an embezzler, but in fact the parable is a story of a steward, or manager. Stewardship in the context of the New Testament stands in contrast with tithing of the Old Testament. Instead of giving the Lord ten percent of what you have, or ‘cutting him in,’ everything you are and everything you have belongs to Him. This begs the question, how are we managing what God has given to us? Not just our finances, but our time, energy, and talents.   

In this parable, the manager or steward is poorly managing a rich man’s money. In fear of being caught and ultimately losing his job with access to his master’s money, he makes a shrewd decision to benefit himself in the future. He brokers deals with others who owe debts to his employer, essentially asking them to pay partial amounts now and he will mark them as paid in full. He ensured that once his sins were discovered, he would have friends to receive him and support him. When he is caught, his employer, the rich man, praises him for being so calculating and conscious of his future. While he is fired, the employer recognizes the effort the steward demonstrated in planning ahead.  

Jesus tells us to be like that steward. Not in his dishonesty, but in his shrewdness. Secondly, if taken literally, we could understand that everything we have now is not our own, rather it is placed in our care by God. Like the steward knew he might be fired, so we must realize that our time on earth is finite. One day we will all die and face the accounts of our stewardship. How should this realization impact how we care for everything in our stewardship? Like the steward, we should be conscious of our inevitable death or job termination. We cannot take all the earthly goods and possessions with us when we die. Instead, we are called to be generous with our time, money, and talents. We are called to be good stewards that are thankful for what we have been given and give freely to others what is God’s. Good stewards are shrewd to the benefit of themselves and others.  

When you enter into the kingdom of heaven, don’t you want to be received with open arms by people who are grateful for your generosity? By living generously in this life, we are buying shares in heaven and planning for an eternal future. I know I try to be conscious of what I share with others. Volunteering, sharing what I have with friends and family, and donating to causes I care about are all ways I demonstrate faithful stewardship. Because Jesus calls us to go beyond tithing, go further than just ten percent. He asks us to give all of what we are and all of what we have to His gospel.  

There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  

In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ 

But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ – Luke 16:19-26  

The second story, “The Rich Man and Lazarus,” is a very negative statement about a man who was the absolute opposite of the partners Jesus was recruiting. We see the juxtaposition of a rich man, who lives in comfort in a mansion and sleeps in silk sheets, and Lazarus who sleeps on the streets in rags outside the gates. Both men then die, like all men die, regardless of their status or authority. The rich man is buried with great pomp and circumstance. Lazarus isn’t even buried, his body is picked up by sanitation workers and thrown in the great garbage heap, Gehenna.  

Gehenna surrounded the city of Jerusalem, a perpetually burning pile of ash and rotting garbage. Once a site for child sacrifice and cursed by the Prophet Jeramiah, the valley became a dumping ground for the city’s refuse. It festered like an oozing sore, rank and vile. It became associated with eternal punishment in Jewish culture, with Gehenna translated to hell in English versions of the bible. It was in this heap that Lazarus’ body was thrown with little regard.   

And yet, in the afterlife, we see Lazarus in the delights of heaven’s glow. He is nestled in Abraham’s bosom and in intimate fellowship with the saints. The rich man however, is in hell. He is tormented and suffering in the depths of hell. There is a great gulf, an irrevocably wide chasm between the two. The rich man begs for just a drop of water to be placed on his tongue, a small act of mercy from Lazarus. He is told that is impossible, that the divide between them is fixed and unpassable. The rich man then worries about his brothers who still lived, but is reminded that not even someone raised from the dead can save them, since they already chose to ignore Moses and the prophets. The rich man then is doomed to recall his lifetime for eternity, thinking about the choices he made in life that damned him to hell.  

This parable is often used to justify fire and brimstone preaching, but I believe that misses the root of the passages. Jesus is urging us to care for people like Lazarus while we are living, to show true compassion for the suffering. He challenges us to be partners in His gospel, to love the blind, bound, and broken people for whom He came to save. We are not called to live in isolation, sitting high and mighty in ivory towers. We are called to sit with the homeless, the teen mothers, the drug addicts, and the residents of section-8 housing, not just with others like us on Sunday in pressed-suits and designer bags. We are called to enter in community with others and love others as Jesus loves us.

Church Development Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

The Least of These 

Author: Rachel Kidd

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, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

Matthew 25:31–46 

At the gates of heaven, the King takes stock of His people. He separates them, sheep from goats, right from left. The blessed are those who gave freely to others, who fed the hungry, tended to the sick, and welcomed the stranger. They took care of people without expectation of reward. Yet, Jesus rewards them for their kindness, likening serving the least of these to serving Him. 

I’ve watched my mom work in community based, family counseling my whole life. She has dedicated nearly 35 years to serving people who need it the most- low-income families, single moms, foster children, gang members, addicts, and people with an array of mental illnesses.  

They are people like those you might see on street corners with signs asking for change, who live in week-to-week motel rooms, who carefully count their purchases before checking-out at the grocery store so they won’t max out their EBT card.  

Essentially, my mom works with these clients on their life skills, relationships, and mental health, assisting them in becoming functional members of society. But, her job is so much more than that. She becomes another member of their family, as she works with them multiple days a week in their home, oftentimes for many years. She answers late night emergency calls, takes foster children to safe places, or moves families between hotel rooms so often, I’ve lost count. She goes above and beyond for her families and it has been an honor of my life to watch her in action and even help when possible.  

 Last week, my mom was sick and unable to help another family as she had promised. It was the first cold night of the season and this family with four young children had just moved into a new apartment; no furniture, heat, or coats at all. My mom had gathered supplies for them, but was unable to deliver them. I stepped in and drove to meet the family with an extra air mattress and new coats for everyone. The mom and daughter met me outside and I was able to give them the necessities. They were clearly so fond of my mom, they wanted to make sure she was okay and willed her to get better soon. They even invited her to be in their family picture session, if she was well enough of course.  

To see how well my mom loves her clients, people so often deemed social outcasts, those on the margins of society, I see the way Jesus loved. I see the way the least of these are treated by the world, neglected and abused. But my mom loves, supports, and values them. She treats the least of these with respect and care that they don’t often receive from others. She loves the least of these in a way that I so admire, with consistent humility. It’s often a thankless job, often compared to being in the trenches, yet she shows up everyday for people on the margins.  

The Sheep and the Goats 

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, ‘Truly I tell you, 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.  

Matthew 25:-46 NIV 

 Jesus rebukes His people that did not take care of the strangers in their land, the sick, poor, and destitute. Not only do they not receive the reward of the kind, they are cursed to eternal fire and punishment. These people that ignored those in need, like many of us so often do, are forever separated from God. How many of us get caught up in our own lives and problems that we are blind to the great needs of others? I know I often fall into that trap, spending so long grappling for a foothold that I fail to see the people below me. It makes me wonder, how many people have I passed by that have fallen through the cracks?  

When I taught 2nd grade in a low-income school, I worked hard to make sure those kids felt loved and cared for when they walked into my classroom. Maybe I wasn’t the strongest in classroom management or academic rigor, but I loved those kids. Kids that were ignored and neglected at home, were welcomed and listened to in the classroom. In a sense, I felt that I was walking in my mom’s footsteps. I wanted to share that same love and support with my students that she does with her clients. I can only hope that I left a lasting impact on those kids, knowing that someone cared.  

At His Feet 

‘Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.’  

Luke 7:44-48 NIV 

The woman is so grateful for the way Jesus loved and forgave her, despite her many sins, she publicly displays her love in return. She washes His feet with her tears, pours out expensive perfume, and wipes it away with her own locks of hair. I can’t imagine the scene, a room full of men who believe themselves to be more important to the Savior, watching as this woman enters and pours out her heart at His feet. And instead of judgment, she is met with grace and tenderness.  

Jesus rewards her outpouring of gratitude and rebukes the men around Him, asking why they did not welcome Him with the same hospitality. The men did not give Jesus water for His feet, nor greet Him with one kiss, much less bathe him in perfume and tears. He connects great love with great care, great forgiveness of a multitude of sins. He says that whoever has been forgiven little, has little love to give in return.  

I see it in the stories of my mom’s clients, the overwhelming gratitude for care they don’t often receive. I saw it in my students, who made the sweetest gifts and cards for me all year long. And in the woman at Jesus’ feet, who showed her thanks in her tears. To love and care for the least of these, the marginalized, is to care for Jesus.