37 “Then those who are righteous will reply to him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you a drink? 38 When did we see you as a stranger and welcome you, or naked and give you clothes to wear? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40 “Then the king will reply to them, ‘I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.’
I was unloading the dishwasher when I heard a familiar clank that sounded like glass breaking. At first, I couldn’t find the trouble, so I continued to unload. Then I looked closer and saw the pieces of glass that I’d missed, first in the dishwasher, and then scattered on the floor. I’d almost stepped on it. I swept it up and moved on to the next task.
The moment reminded me to think of those in need and how sometimes we miss people who are truly hurting. Our senses may say that something is a little off, but for “the least of these, ” maybe their trouble is not so easily known. Those in need may go unseen even though they’re in plain sight. Perhaps they don’t fit into a category that we recognize, or they are doing their best not to be noticed. Maybe they are too embarrassed, stubborn or shaken to even speak of their problem — let alone receive support from others.
Yet other times, I wonder if the need of the “least of these” is just too much to bear, and so we turn our heads away. Like the crash scene that we voyeuristically view, but now seems too much, so that we cover our eyes. As the damage becomes too ugly to see, we turn our heads away. The true needs of the downtrodden are hard to witness, particularly because it challenges us to do more.
Those hurting may even be discounted as taking up too much of our time, or worse, as getting from the world exactly what they deserve. Perhaps we are less willing to help when we surmise that a person’s difficulty is a part of their own doing. Once discounted, it’s easy for us to walk the other way, rationalize or believe that help should come from elsewhere. It’s hard seeing people who are in such need, but helping today and tomorrow is harder, because it requires our compassion and our engagement. We are not just sweeping the mess away. Helping those in need challenges our whole being, requires our action and the full conviction that all are deserving of love and mercy. The Lord knows we aren’t just sweeping up broken glass.
By Barbara Carlson
For Pondering & Prayer
When the ugliness of those in pain is too hard to see, do we turn our heads and close our hearts? Perhaps it is only human nature to want to look the other way. First, we prayerfully remember those in need as children of God. Then, we do what we can to help today and tomorrow. We don’t just sweep the broken glass away.
I also think of Micah 6:8: “What does the Lord require of you? Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.” Is there another verse that this scripture from Matthew reminds you of?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you know about the brokenness of life. Teach us to really see the needs of others through your eyes. Teach us compassion and how and when to help. Talk to us and direct our steps so that in all that we do, we see and know how to help “the least of these.” Amen.