“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me” (Matt. 25:41-43).
These verses are getting tossed around a lot lately in light of the recent refugee situation, and until now, I did not like it. Let me explain why.
Most of the time, I see these verses getting used haphazardly as some prop for generic humanitarian relief. The “least of these” happens to be whomever people want to make it. Sometimes it is Muslims fleeing Syria. Other times it is homeless veterans. And even other times, it is politicized and wedded to public policy statements by well-meaning Christians.
But that is not how Jesus used it when he said it.
If you read the passage that contains these words, Jesus is describing a coming judgement, one where there will be righteous people and unrighteous people. To each group, one on his right and one on his left, he issues this basic statement. Those found righteous had extended mercy to this “least of these” and those found in condemnation had refused mercy to this “least of these.” However, Jesus identifies the “least of these.” It is not whichever group you would like to assign to it. Continue Reading…