The Least of These
“Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me” (Matthew 25:45).
Jesus’ words here are sobering, for they come at the end of his description of how he will judge the nations when he returns. The problem with those who will be sent away to eternal fire is that they didn’t know (although they should have) that in serving the least they were serving Jesus. And in neglecting the least they were neglecting Jesus.
To be clear, and for reasons that I will not elaborate upon here, I believe that “my brethren” refers primarily to persecuted Christians, brothers and sisters who bear the name of Christ. However, Jesus’ teaching should also warn us against drawing lines that readily exclude others from the circle of our responsibility. That was the lesson of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus declared that one must love his neighbor, the lawyer who sought to justify himself asked, “Who is my neighbor?”—thereby seeking to narrow the circle of his compassion. So Jesus gives the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate what it means to be a neighbor. The Good Samaritan, at considerable cost, attended to one in dire need—a man he did not know—and with no expectation that he would be repaid.
Let’s be careful in defining abortion or euthanasia or sex-trafficking or any other oppression of the vulnerable and those unwanted by others as an “issue.” The word has a tendency to allow us to compartmentalize these matters and put them aside. But what if the unborn child, the struggling mother with no options and no support, the abducted pre-teen or teenager, the severely handicapped, and the ailing elderly are among the least of these?