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Loving the Least of These

Updated: Sep 6, 2019

[31] “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. [32] Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [33] And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. [34] Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. [35] For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, [36] I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ [37] Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? [38] And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? [39] And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ [40] And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:31–40, ESV)

Oh, what a beautiful piece of Scripture! Did you read it? If you’re like me and you see a large chunk of Scripture, you read the first verse and think to yourself, “I know this I don’t need to read the whole thing,” stop, now, and read it.

I grew up in a pretty strict Roman Catholic home. We attended mass each week, and oddly enough, this Scripture stands out vividly in my mind as a part of my experience in that church. These words of Jesus are a theme for the breathtaking floor to ceiling stained glass windows that blanket the entire side of the church wall. I can remember being embarrassed because it said the word “naked” right there in the church for everyone to see!

Now, reading this as a Christian mother of two small children (Ailee, 3, and Dottie, 1), these words of Jesus are speaking to me in a whole new way. While the immediate context of these verses are directed to Jesus’s disciples loving the downtrodden and poor brothers in their midst, I believe this exhortation can also be an exhortation to those loving and caring for children.

What the Lord has taught me in motherhood is that loving the least of these starts with loving my neighbors down the hall in their bedrooms. Loving the least of these certainly applies to loving those in need in my neighborhood, it most immediately applies to my children, my needy neighbors in my home.

The Least of These

There is some debate over who exactly “the least of these” are in this passage. While some theologians argue that the least of these are Christian brothers and sisters in need rather than any poor person in society, the traditional interpretation of this verse remains that Christians are to take on the likeness of Jesus and love the unlovable person who can give nothing back to you.

I can think of no better example of someone who embodies this description of “the least of these” than children.

First, children are certainly seen as annoyances by society. Children are looked down upon as roadblocks to career success and irritants in public places. Sadly, this view can take on a whole new nasty life of its own even in churches. I’ll never forget when I walked into a church after we moved to a new town, and the first thing I saw when I walked into the sanctuary was a sign that said, “Parents with childre

n, please utilize childcare or sit in the back so as not to be a distraction.” Wow. Talk about feeling self-conscious about having children!

Secondly, children are utterly dependent. They need help doing and learning literally everything, and have no way of providing for themselves. As any mom can attest, raising and loving children can be a thankless job. Children can give very little if not nothing at all in return for the care and love they receive. Without constant care, they will literally die.

Let’s look back at each imperative in the text and make this connection. The ways we are to care for the least of these is to give food and drink, clothe, care for, give a home to, and love when sick or lonely. Children cannot feed themselves, or give themselves something to drink. Children have no home they can claim a right to unless taken in by parents or a caregiver. Without love they would be homeless. They cannot clothe themselves or care for themselves when they’re sick, and they cannot give themselves a family or community. All of these imperatives in the text must be provided for children. What an opportunity as a caregiver! I pray I will remember this at 2:00 am when my 3 year old is crying for her water!

Blessings of Loving the Least of These

The aforementioned passage goes on to say,

[45] Then he will answer them, saying, ‘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.’ [46] And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:45–46, ESV)

Obviously, the first and foremost blessing of loving the least of these is eternal life! If by faith in Christ and through the working of His power, we love our children genuinely, and selflessly serve them with a happy heart, and are patient as we clothe them when they are kicking and screaming, we will inherit the promised reward, the outcome of our faith, the salvation of our souls! Of course, not because we served, but because we were served by Christ and empowered by Him to serve the thankless.

Even better, the blessing of loving the least of these is that we can daily become more like Jesus. There has been nothing more sanctifying in my life than mothering my children. The things I thought I needed before having children, I have learned, I do not need. I do not need 8 hours of sleep. I do not need to take a shower every day. I do not need to have “me time” every day. I do not need to run or exercise as much as I want whenever I want. I do not need so many things I thought I needed. What I need is Christ. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus is the only thing I need. And He calls me to die to myself.

So, as we think about service and humility and stooping low in our lives, and we ought to be thinking of these things, may we not overlook the high (lowly?) call of motherhood, or of those caring for children. What an opportunity to serve children who cannot return what was given them; to serve with joy; to serve the least of these.

Julia Callahan is a wife and mother of two sweet babies and primarily works at home. She is from Elizabeth, PA and graduated from Geneva College with a BA in Biblical Studies, and earned her MS in Industrial Organizational Psychology from Grand Canyon University. She currently resides in Payson, AZ.

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