Many of you know that BridgeWay sponsors several ministries that serve those in need—Filling the Void, Samaritan’s Inn, and Salvation Army Women. In addition to these ministries, there are numerous members who have taken up the call on their own. Recently, the town of Flower Mound recognized Filling the Void with a nomination for the “Outstanding Citizenship Award” which is something we should all be proud of! However, we need to remember that Jesus himself recognizes these efforts. In fact, listen to what he tells his followers in Matthew 25:
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 invited me in, 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… I tell you the truth, just as you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did it for me.’
In this challenging teaching, Jesus speaks of the coming judgement in which he will separate people “like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Jesus then lists the criteria for this judgement. Unfortunately for me, it might as well be a list of things I try to avoid. It is rare for me to serve those who are hungry, thirsty, under-dressed, or in prison. In fact, as a Flower Mound suburbanite, I rarely even see them.
Serving the “least of these” is hard for me. Yes, it requires my time and resources. But often, my true reluctance is my attitude towards the needy. When you listen to the stories of people in dire straits, you learn that a bad decision (or two), combined with some bad luck are usually common denominators. For me, this makes it easier to be apathetic. In the end, we all make choices and have to deal with the consequences. You made your bed, now you get to sleep in it. My attitude makes me feel both self-righteous and superior.
The challenging part of Jesus’ teaching is that he does not qualify it. There is no mention of serving those who are “deserving” or “worthy” of aid. He simply lays down the gauntlet for those who claim to be his followers.
A couple of months ago, a few BridgeWay members and I served with Filling the Void in downtown Dallas. Over the course of a couple hours, we passed out meals and spoke with members of the homeless community that frequent our weekly ministry. Engaging with the people forced me to confront my attitude towards “the least of these.” Their physical poverty made me face my own spiritual poverty. It was as if Jesus was saying to me, “Kyle, your clothes might be newer, your belly might be full, and you will sleep in a warm bed tonight, but make no mistake, you are in as desperate need of my grace as these homeless people are.”
Jesus opposes self-righteousness and superiority. In fact, this is the essence of Pharisee-ism which Jesus condemns. When we serve the least of these, God confronts the Pharisee in our hearts. He reminds us of our spiritual poverty. Paradoxically, when we obey Jesus’ command, we are the ones who find ourselves being blessed.
For any interested in getting involved with these ministries, send us an email and we will get you in touch with our outreach leaders! email@example.com