Who is "the least of these"?

I don't know what God is trying to teach me, but I suspect it is something, and I am doing my best to listen up!

Over the last couple of weeks, I've had more than a fair share of opportunity to ponder exactly what Jesus meant in his story of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46. You'll recall that Jesus says that he will come in all his glory with the angels and gather the nations before him and then he will seperate them, the sheep on the right and the goats on the left. The bases of the division as Jesus tells it, is between those who saw the naked and clothed them, the hungry and fed them, the stranger and invited him in, the sick and in prison and looked after them vs. those who saw the same people and did not clothe,feed, invitie in or look after them.

Especially these days, you hear a lot of socially concious, christian affiliated groups using this scripture as a basis for there activism. I'm totally fine with that. But how do I determine this in my everyday life. Why do I ask this? Allow me to tell you my story of the last week or so. This will take a while, so sit back, relax...maybe grab a cup of joe or something.

So last Wednesday night I was at the church eating supper with our Wednesday night meal folks, when one of our members asked me to go outside and help another member deal with a guy who had wondered up and was asking for money. So I did. I invited the guy into my office and proceeded to find out his story. Now I don't want to judge people on looks, but there are certain signs that let you know a lot about a person. For instance, if the person has black or no teeth, they either had very bad hygene (which is probably somewhat true) or they use crystal meth (more likely to be true, especially in our area which is plagued by the rampant use of this drug). The guy I was talking to looked to be in his mid-forties, so I assumed that even the worst hygene would not have resulted in this extreme tooth decay. Anyway, so the guy gave the story of how his family had lost everything in their RV which caught on fire and they are now stranded in Guntersville, and they have everything they need except they need money for toiletries, bread, soap, etc. He had been to several local organizations in town who help in these situations and they quote "couldn't do anything for him" (for the record, this is a red flag for us as well...because those places do a really good job of background checking and etc....usually if they "can't do anything for them" it's for a good reason!!!). Well, being the tender-hearted guy that I am, I told him we would buy him some soap, shampoo, toiletries, etc. Well, in our 20 minute conversation the guy asked me for cash, ranging anywhere from $50 to $5. Each time I told him that I would not be giving him cash but that we would get him his essential needs.

So we did. The next day the guy shows up at my office again, as if we are old buddies, asking if I could give him a ride to a place that might hire him. I reluctantly told him I would take him. On the way there I asked him who he had an interview with, to which he responded that he did not in fact, have an interview lined up and that he was just going to try to talk to anybody who could hire him(followed by "can I borrow $5" to which I responded "buddy....I'm not giving you money!!). On the way home I realized that the place he was trying to get a job for was located right beside an area called East Lake...which is a low income housing project known mostly for the drug scene.....so I have a sneaky feeling what happened (not trying to judge...just being honest)!!

Well then last night, while at home, I had a guy call me telling me that he was having surgery tomorrow, he just got into town and he was looking for someone to come pray with him. Don't know how he got my name (a scary thought though), but I agreed to go pray with him at the Huddle House in Guntersville. As I left the house, Karen encouraged me to not go alone...and offered to come with me. I told her to stay home, that I would be fine. However about 3 minutes in to my 10 minute drive to Huddle House, I sensed overwhelmingly that I should get someone to go with me. So I called my good buddy/deacon/foot doctor(can't spell pediatrist) to go with me. It was a great thing that I did. From the first word the guy spoke I could tell he was loaded...not because he acted drunk, but because he reeked of alcohol. He had had both of his feet partially amputated due to frostbite. Anyway, we talked for a while and found out the real reason for calling me. Seems he had been in town for a week, had secured an apartment but couldn't afford to turn the heat on....and it was bitterly cold here last night. So, we got the guy a hotel room for the night. He, like others that I have helped, used every manner possible to ask us for money. We continually said no.

So that leads me to my title question. Who really is "the least of these"? My heart is to help people in need. I want to help those who can't help themselves...the orphans, widows, fatherless, etc. I want for our church and my life to be a beacon of hope to all in need. However, I have a hard time helping those who are completely unwilling to help themselves. Furthermore, those that come and ask for help most often here at the church are those who are, in my best estimation, just looking to mooch off of the church so that they can support their habit, thereby making us potential enablers, and potentially zapping our passion for those who truly are in need. So what is my responsibility to those who are bumming? After last night, I was kicking myself, wondering why I didn't just say outright "hey man, why do you reek of alcohol? How is it that you can afford the sauce but can't afford heat? Why do you keep asking for money when you know I'm not going to give it to you?" I just would like to start being a little more straightforward, and call the bluff you know.

There was a time not so very long ago when my honest thought was, "I'll help anyone in need, no matter what, because I know that God will hold that person accountable for what they do with what I give them." Now, I'm not so sure I am being a good steward if I don't hold them accountable myself!

One final note, in relation to helping those in need. I was walking in little five points in Atlanta one time with a good friend of mine. We passed this guy a couple of times who was just sitting on the street asking passer-bys for money. So as we approached the man for the second or third time, my friend said "Watch this" and he went up and asked the beggar if he could borrow a dollar!


I think you handled yourself correctly. You were wise as a serpent but gentle as a dove from the sound of it. And your wife is wise indeed, you shouldn't go meet a stranger like that alone. Good going,man.

Remember John and Peter's encounter with the beggar at the Gate Beautiful in Acts: "silver and gold have I none but such as I have I give you: rise up and walk."

I'm not saying you're going to heal everybody but we have a good gospel that is greater than $5 or even $50.

February 27, 2008 at 3:34 PM  

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