He gives and He takes away
He was just another man in the park. He was hunched over on a bench staring out into the Intracoastal. He watched people as they walked by -- smiling, nodding. He saw a woman with a dog and held out his hand to show the dog he meant no harm. He was quiet, otherwise. He read his books. Book after book, he read. He even claims to have read the bible several times, cover to cover. He didn’t bother anyone. Even on nights when he was able to collect enough money to buy some beer. He still didn’t bother anyone. He drank his beer on his bench, watching the boats come and go, carrying people of lives different than his. He gets a bag of food and some room temperature bottles of water on this hot day. He smiles and throws his hands up to the sky, “Thank you God you answered my prayers!”
He is the least of these.
His eyes are bright blue. Piercing blue. His hair white with traces of blond and his skin a dark shade of tan. He has been living on the streets for a couple of years now. He had a home. A nice one. He had a job, too. In fact, it wasn’t just any job – he owned the company. He even had a wife and a dog. And then one day his wife got sick. He spent every last dime he had – literally - to get her the treatment she needed to save her life. He adored her so much that he let her carry his heart in her hands. It wasn’t long until the treatment failed and she lost her battle. He buried her, still holding his heart. A few months later his dog went home to be with her. A broken - and broke - man in an empty house, he turned to anything he could in order to numb his pain. Do you blame him?
He is the least of these.
She has never told me how she got there, she is just always there. She has made a home on the streets and those who come and go are her family. She organizes, shares, looks out for everyone she meets. She has good intentions, always. But her addiction is hard to fight so she gets sidetracked easily. She was going to get baptized once. She was excited. She told us all about it - when, where, what she was going to wear. We told her we would be there for her... to support her decision. She never showed up. "She isn't feeling well," that is what we were told. We later learn that a man she keeps company with is quite controlling and possibly abusive. She loves him. She wont leave him. Her vicious cycle continues.
She is the least of these.
She had always wanted to be a nurse. She wanted to help people and knew that she would be good at it. Instead of pursuing her career, she dedicated her life to her family and keeping her home filled with joy, laughter and support. She nurtured her loved ones with every fiber of her being, never disappointing her husband or their children. The day she lost him, though, she lost a piece of herself. With the kids grown, she had no one left to look after. She didn't have long trying to find her new place in the world before her health began failing. She felt helpless and alone for the first time. Who was she going to lean on? Who would be there for her?
She is the least of these.
They live in a run-down single room efficiency. With barely enough money to make ends meet, he works hard to provide as best as they can for his young bride and their newborn baby boy. He leaves home for work before the sun rises while she keeps herself busy making their tiny space a home. She sews bright curtains for their 2 tiny windows out of scrap fabric, she uses her talents to paint a mural on the far wall to make the room shine brightly. Her favorite day of the week is Friday. This is when she gathers up as much extra food as they can spare and puts bags together for some neighborhood kids. Sometimes its a couple of pb&j sandwiches, a couple pieces of fruit or some crackers. Other times she will find a sale on bologna and cheese. Yet at other times, its just fruit and crackers. This food allows these kids to eat over the weekend since they are not at school to receive a meal. Yes, she has so little, but gives so much.
She is the least of these. And she helps the least of these.
So who are the "least of these," you ask? They are the faces of God. They are the hungry, the thirsty, the helpless and the hurting... "Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'" Matthew 25:37-40 (NLT)
God works through us. He expects us to do as he would. His love in us shines brighter each time we help those who need us. It is a very important part of what it means to be a Christian. Do you honestly think you encounter people in life by accident or coincidence? No, no, friend. There is a reason."With every bone in my body I will praise him: "Lord, who can compare with you? Who else rescues the helpless from the strong? Who else protects the helpless and poor from those who rob them?" - Psalm 35:10 (NLT)
Turning away from someone because they may not be at the same place in life as you is going against God. We have all been given many blessings and skills. I sometimes think that God gives us these things just to see what we will do with them. Opportunities, money, gifts -- They aren't ours. Therefore, what you have... give it away. You may be surprised at just how you full you feel when you do.