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.’
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.