(This is the first in a series of posts I’m considering for publication. Please take a minute to read the post and if your willing, leave a comment or use the stars at the bottom right of the article to give it a rating, your input will be extremely helpful. Thank You)
There is a dangerous and common misconception that is used in the church today. We use religious language and Biblical reference, but we do it in a way that gives us a dangerously inaccurate picture of the people we interact with.
We use the language of “Least of these” a lot in the church, especially when we are talking about “ministry” and “service.” This is not bad wording as it’s the language Jesus used when he told the Sheep in a parable why they were allowed to enter into His kingdom:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Primarily we say the “Least of these” when refer to people in need, whether that be the homeless, poor, low-income, etc. This seems like a good interpretation since Jesus himself describes the least of these as people with real physical needs: Hungry, Thirsty, Needing clothing, Sick, in Prison.
The desire in the church to care for the “least of these” is an extremely important and worthwhile use of our time. In fact that passage appears to be the longest and most direct words of Jesus about Heaven and Hell. As a church that is frequently discussing the after-life this should be a priority.
The misconception and the wayward understanding too often heard in the church is an equating of the “Least of these” as “unsaved.” No where in the Matthew 25-where our language of the “least of these” comes from- is there any mention or inference that the people whom the sheep provided for where somehow “unsaved.” If anything Jesus says they are “brothers of mine,” implying they are part of the kingdom if they are anything.
Yet, in our churches today we talk about “ministries” and we tie so closely the idea of providing for folks physical needs with that of “saving people.” We create this idea that when you go to the soup kitchen you need to “tell people about Jesus,” as if they are unsaved, unchurched, and in need of your gospel. To be clear, there are a lot of people who do not know the love of Jesus, but there are just as many in the church pews and suburbs around you as there are in the homeless shelters and housing projects. Just because someone can’t make ends meet to put a roof over their head does not mean they some how do not know God or haven’t experienced the Holy Spirit.
We, the church, need to stop treating the “least of these” as “unsaved” and start treating them like the sister’s and brother’s in Christ that many are. Even more, we should be treating them as the Kings and Queens that they are, since according to Jesus, “Their’s is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Conclusion: Don’t stop the soup kitchen and homeless shelters, Christians need to continue providing for our sibling. If anything we probably need to step it up a couple notches since the most tangible way you can interact with Jesus nowadays is not in a church service or a song, it’s feeding him and clothing him (”When I was hungry you gave me something to eat.”). Yet, we need to stop coupling our service with our evangelism. We need to step off our high horse in service opportunities and recognize that many of those we help have deep and intimate relationships with Jesus and there is a great deal we can learn from them. Quite frankly, maybe we are the ones that need “saving.”