Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.”
This is a classic text! During a week of service with Mennonite Disaster Service, an organization which rebuilds houses and a bunch of other stuff after disasters, I participated in a bible study based on this text. At the bible study a gentleman took the liberty to add to end of this text “… I needed a house, and you built one for me.” It was beautiful. A stunning moment as this text dynamically engaged my particular time and place.
It has also inspired literary genius. Leo Tolstoy in his classic “Where love is God is also” shares a story about a cobbler who loses his faith, but finds it again in the service of people, for that is where he found God.
Surely the audience of 1st century Palestine would recognize that Jesus was offering a divine social critique in this story. He lived a life that embodied this message. Serve the people of whom our society throws out with the garbage. Serve and love like Jesus did. It is a call to follow in Jesus’s footsteps, offering a love that transcends all social boundaries.
It is a call to humility. To serve those whom are the ‘least of these’ has a guilty by association feel to it. You love, therefore you are. Love, and show solidarity with the socially downtrodden and there is a high chance you will indeed share the same fate.
It’s not something we do just because it is nice. The sacrifice is too great for that. Nicety can only take us so far. It therefore can’t be a ’riding in on a white horse’ superman-esque mentality. This is where Jesus digs a bit deeper.
It stunningly asks us the question, “how will we receive Jesus?”
Martin the cobbler in Tolstoy’s story receives Jesus in humble service of the ‘least of these.’ That is where he encountered God. Crossing socio-economic boundaries takes a humility. Without this humility and service, the cobbler would not have seen love, nor encountered the presence of Jesus.
If we are not in the place of humility, we will have a difficult time receiving Jesus.
The apocalyptic element of this story indicates to us that our choices matter. There are consequences to what we do. It offers us hope however, that we are ultimately judged by the cross. But at it’s heart, this story, this text pierces our soul with the bold suggestion that we need humility to receive Jesus and humility looks like ‘the least of these.’
The answer, while relatively simplistic offers a back to the basics in Christian spirituality. Be humble, for there you will find and receive Jesus. The consequences of such are wholistic, being both spiritual and social.
Like the gentleman who offered an addition to the text “I needed a house and you build one for me…” what would you add to the story? What does humility look like for you?