Matthew 25:34-36

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 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 welcomed me, 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.’” Matthew 25:34-36

Sometimes it is helpful to remember the vast gulf between us and the people of Jesus’ day. While human nature might not change, human conditions certainly have.

In Jesus’ day, the vast majority of people lived on a subsistence diet that barely kept them alive. There was nothing approaching what we know as the “middle class.” There was the rich and the extremely rich and those that suffered under grinding poverty. There were no opportunities to change one’s position in life.

The good news that Jesus brought was not only the forgiveness of sin, it was the promise of healing of all that separates us from God and from one another, including peoples’ public social realities and physical needs. It was good news for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. It was good news for those who needed it most. Conversely, it was a real challenge – and still is – to those who had plenty to eat, drink, and wear. A challenge to those who sat at the “top” of the humanly created pecking orders of life.

In Jesus’ day, the remarkable thing about Christian community was how it reached across dividing lines of class, culture, and gender. People who otherwise might not have anything to do with each other beyond social and economic functions joined their lives as a community. They shared what they had with one another. The writer of Acts says “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”

We certainly have poverty and hunger and oppression in our culture today. No question about that. But we have softened those realities with the work of non-profit caring efforts, and state and federal programs for the poor and the poorest of the poor. There is also real opportunity for upward mobility for those that work hard and take advantage of those opportunities.

Along the way we have learned that efforts to create and sustain large populations of people on the principle of “from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs” doesn’t work. It might sound good on paper but the dark side of human nature gets in the way. All human systems are vulnerable to corruption, self-dealing, and catering to those that accumulate power and wealth while ignoring the common good. All human systems see life from the top down.

Jesus would lead us, instead, to view life from the bottom up. To consider – in our personal and public lives – first the needs of the poorest of the poor. There will always be enough for all.

Let us pray: Soften our hearts and open our eyes, O Lord, that we might see the world as Jesus did. That the good news which we both receive and share, be truly good news for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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One Response to “Matthew 25:34-36”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Excellent message with a clear meaning. I shared your message with someone who sees the world in much the same way as you do!

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