Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Exhibit A: A large percentage of GOP representatives have put great emphasis on their Christian beliefs. Exhibit B: News from the budget discussions in Washington DC and Wisconsin.

Exhibit C: Matthew 25:34-40:
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.”

I can’t be the only one in this country wondering about this amazing discrepancy between confessed belief and action. Granted, none of us is perfect. But a gap this wide, and so consistent, is remarkable. One wonders where all the evangelical Christians are right now. Why is none of compelled to speak up to people who say NASCAR funding is more important than Pell Grants, big agriculture subsidy is more important than helping the poor buy healthy food, extending tax cuts for the rich is more important than helping the poor, and claim to do all of it as Christians? I am baffled.

Christian readers of this blog, please reflect back for a moment on all the times you heard in church how your actions are testimony to your faith. This is  where doctrine meets life. You have been told that we, the non-believers, are paying attention to how you live your professed faith. Your minister was 150% right about this! Let’s take care of one possible excuse right away: I am not out to judge, or put a lot of effort in searching out failures. I know all too well that the essence of being human includes the good and bad, successes and failures, courage to do right and doing wrong all in the same person. Still, the big themes of your life, your nature, your intentions shine through your daily choices of action.

When I read the new testament, I see clearly how Jesus viewed the poor, the heavily laden, the sinners, and even the tax collector. For him, they were NOT the poor, the heavily laden, the sinners, and even the tax collector. They were not even his fellow humans; brothers and sisters are the words used. Family. Remember “family values”? What are you called upon to do when one of your family fails miserably in life? Ok, yes, there may be feelings of frustration, words of admonishment, etc. Nonetheless, I am confident that the first action I will see you do is to provide help. You will figure out how to get your brother/sister a loan so she can pay off her credit card debt; you will then share your own resources and time to help her find the education, skills and resources to learn how to not get herself into trouble again. You will spend your own money if medical bills need to be paid.

And how often shall you do this? Again, Jesus has answered this as well in Matthew 18:22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!”

Nobody said being a Christian is easy. You probably have been warned hundreds of times in church how hard it really is to walk the narrow path.

Well, let’s address another excuse for not doing the right thing. We have often heard, phrased one way or the other, that those of us who work hard and accomplish much should get to keep the rewards of our labors. And there is nothing wrong with it in principle, I think. But we should not forget the responsibility that comes with being blessed with parents who taught us to work hard and be honest people; the good grace of having healthy bodies to allow us to do hard work; and being lucky to be born with a good helping of gray matter in our brains. Again, in the words of Jesus as recorded in Luke 12:48: “[…] When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.”

Actually, let us read this in context, Luke 12:42-28 “And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season?  Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.  Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath.  But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;  The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.  And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.  For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

Faithful and wise steward? Those are the words of Jesus to the leadership on how to conduct their office!

I hold the words of Jesus in high esteem; there is no doubt this was a man who stood out in wisdom and compassion. I do believe (hope?) that most followers professing his teachings, Christians in all their colorful variety of doctrine, are in it for real, not just for the feel-good of Sunday service and community. Christians of all congregations, please, don’t disappoint my faith in you: call on your elected leaders who share your faith to put all of it into action, not just the cherry-picked easy tasks. Your faith deserves to be done right by.

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2 Responses to Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

  1. Dr. Nuke says:

    Well written… And Luke even reports some more tough statements (Lk 6,24-26): “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.
    But woe to you who are filled now, for you will be hungry.
    Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep.
    Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”
    Here’s basically all combined that our western civilization hails as life’s utmost blessings: money, good food, entertainment, and good reputation.
    I remember some German politicians (including some from a self-proclaimed “Christian” party) saying some time ago that the sermon of the mount was no guideline for policy. And I always wondered why.
    Of course: Does “Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow” (Matth 5,42) also apply to the bum begging for a buck on the streets? Yes, I think so. And yet, I usually don’t give money to beggars. I hope I start with respect as a first step. And I feel guilty that I do not encourage society and lead political discussions enough to help these people at (or beyond?) the edges of our society. Let’s keep going…

  2. Steve says:

    A thoughtful post! Nicely done. Maybe I can answer one or two of your implied questions. It’s important to keep morals and teachings separate from public (non-religious) policy. Morals are good for the individual, goverment must put the good of the many above the needs of the few. When a church provides charity it usually does so as an opportunity to provide moral guidance, and it has no obligation to continue providing help. The ungrateful or unreformed are pressured to change or leave. (My parents are fundamentalists so perhaps my personal history doesn’t match that of others reading this post.) Donors are free to stop giving if they don’t like the results or the method of distribution. When the government gives, it’s not “charity”, it is an entitlement. There is no requirement to reform, there is no way to stop giving, and the giving is compulsory from all people. It’s the compulsory nature of goverment handouts that make them fundamentally different from the charity which is asked of Christians by their faith. If it’s not freely given, it’s not charity. Jefferson called himself a Christian but was against church doctrine: “in every country and every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.” I’m with him. I don’t think religious concepts should shape public policy, and charity is a religious concept. Governmental support should be either a reward for change or a bridge to productivity, both of which eventually “pay back” the people being taxed. It’s a social contract, not pure charity.

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