Jesus tells a story in Matthews 25 of a King who calls a meeting of his subjects. He said to the group to the right of him, "I want to sincerely thank and commend you. For I was sick, and you cared for me. I was hungry and thirsty, and you fed me and gave me a drink. I was freezing in the cold, and you gave me a coat to wear. I was in prison, and you visited me and cared for me. I just wanted to say thank you!"
The people exchanged awkward glances with one another and finally, one of them spoke up. "Thank you your Highness, but we must admit we are a little confused. When did we see you hungry and thirsty and feed you, or sick and care for you? When did we see you cold and provide you with warm clothes? And when did we ever see you in prison?"
A warm smile spread across the King’s face as he softly replied: "Whenever you do these things for the least of these, those who are marginalized, forgotten, lost in the shuffle, overlooked or just ignored ... you do them for me."
I enjoy serving as a volunteer chaplain at Taber Health Centre and the opportunity to spend time with some of the most lovely people anywhere, in Long Term Care. Long Term Care is home for about ten residents these days.
Recently, a group of musicians came in to perform for the residents. When they started, they out numbered the residents but enthusiastically played on. Slowly, the residents made their way over. I watched as one by one, the resident’s toes began to tap. It wasn't long before a number of them started singing along, smiling and thoroughly enjoying themselves. The smile on the face of one resident as she wheel chair danced with a nurse was truly heart warming! What a beautiful gift to these ten residents. In the space of a little time, these lovely people had their day made! Sure, the band could have played to a larger crowd somewhere else, but I don't think it could have had any more of a profound affect on the lives of people than at Taber Long Term Care that day.
As a culture, we have been so conditioned to equate value and significance with quantity. Super-size it! Is our cultural mantra. Jesus speaking of the ‘least of these’ challenges our cultural obsession with quantity as the determination of value and significance. Jesus helps us see that many of the most beautiful, significant things can also be found in some of the smallest and seemingly insignificant things. Consider Jesus when He speaks of the Kingdom of God as a little mustard seed, or how he welcomes little children. Jesus speaks of faith as small as a mustard seed for moving mountains. Jesus often spent time with folks who were the least in His society like Zaccheus, the notorious tax collector, the Samaritan woman at the well, the sick, and the "unclean."
Who might be the least of these today? Who around us may be overwhelmed by life? Who are the overlooked, the ignored people in our neighborhoods, schools or workplaces? Who could benefit from some tangible love without an agenda? Could it be the shut-in next door? Or the single parent down the street who struggles to care for her children, shovel her walk or keep her yard up? It may just be as simple as quite literally loving our neighbor as Jesus loves us. It may simply be learning to open our eyes and to recognize the needs, great or small, and the simple ways we can make a genuine difference. Loving well is not a function of quantity or ‘bang for the buck’, it’s the quality of our response to the opportunity, large or small.