I’ve been around the world on quite a few mission trips the past few years where I’ve witnessed poverty firsthand and met with the “least of these”. BUT LAST NIGHT, the scripture where Jesus talks about the “least of these” was brought to life like never before and I did something I have never done before (or ever THOUGHT I would do, for that matter)…
In case you’re not familiar, here’s what Jesus says in Matthew 25:35-40
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invited you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
This is Steve
Last night, I had just gotten off work at my burrito shop in the mall and decided to hang outside to use some WiFi to make a Facetime call with a friend. Let me continue to set the scene: The mall is closed. It’s nighttime. It’s 29 degrees outside with snow on the ground. And my car is the only one in the dark parking lot. Then here comes this random stranger out of nowhere, approaching me.
In the middle of my call, this man begins asking me if there’s anything I can do to help him out, begging for a couple extra bucks. I could’ve dismissed him because I was in the middle of a call but instead I asked him to sit at one of the benches and give me a minute so I can hop off my phone. I had no idea what result would come out of asking him to wait for me at that time.
I got off the phone and asked what he needed. He had no place to go or stay for the night and was trying to scrounge up any bit of cash so he could check into a motel room for the night. I had no cash so I offered the next best thing I could offer: “Hey man are you hungry?” His eyes lit up at the opportunity to at least keep his belly full so I walked him through the parking lot to Burger King. He made a comment about why we weren’t going to drive over, and honestly it was because I’ve always been raised to fear giving strangers a ride even though they may be in need…never done it…so we walked to the restaurant.
They were open and he wanted to settle for a meager cheeseburger and fries so I kept pushing him, “Dude the whole menu is yours! Whatever you want: go get em tiger!” I feel that’s how Jesus is with us, don’t you think? He says “ask and you will receive”. He says “you have not because you ask not”. The gospels even go on to say the Father has good gifts for his children. So I refuse to accept meager scraps on the floor when He invites me to sit WITH Him at His table. So therefore, we should not be afraid to ask for our true desires and stop settling for mere scraps when WE are his children, aka: royalty in the Kingdom of God.
After buying our fast food feast for King Steve, I originally was gonna call it a night right there, until I found my body moving without me controlling it. As I sat down at the table with Steve, I remember I was even thinking, “wait what am I doing and where am I going with this?” Ha ha. So I got to know my new friend Steve while he chowed down. I asked him about his situation, his family, and life in general. In the midst of conversation, he kept mentioning his worry about potentially having to sleep on the street that night. The homeless shelter in town was full and couldn’t take him in so I looked up where the closest motel was. Sure enough, they had an open room…now it was time to put faith into action like never before…
“Steve, let’s get you a room buddy!”
We hopped in my car (despite any fear I may have had, but there was no fear; only peace this night) and, as we drove to the motel, we had amazing conversations about his life. He kept calling me a “blessing” and an “angel” and, with that: it completely opened the door wide to share who I am and why I do what I do. “Dude because God loves me so much, I want to love whoever I meet so they can know the Father loves THEM so much. That means YOU Steve. You’re not forgotten and His love is relentless for you.” It was all Jesus for the rest of the night.
After buying Steve a room, I asked Steve if I could pray for him. He welcomed it with open arms and we began getting super real, praying together and even crying together out in the cold, on the sidewalk of this random motel. Even right now, I’m writing with tears in my eyes because I could see how touched Steve was and I could feel (and can still feel) the love of the Father on Steve’s life.
It wasn’t until I left the motel, I remembered how I just read about the “least of these”. I also remembered an amazing quote (which I was literally sharing with my friends on the phone minutes before I met Steve) from Mother Teresa in Heidi Baker’s book ‘Compelled by love’. The quote says:
“When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It has happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed”
Here was a man who was hungry.
Here was a man who was thirsty.
Here was a man who was a stranger.
Here was a man who was cold.
Here was a man who had no place to go.
How dare I walk away and do nothing?!
At least for tonight:
He’s no longer hungry or thirsty. He’s no longer a stranger. He’s no longer sleeping out in the cold.
We may not be able to completely fix someone’s life in one night. But we sure can be the love of the Father they need for that moment. And in that moment, through one act of radical love, it may be the seed that gives birth to future change.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you” – when you already have it with you.” ~ Proverbs 3:27-28
It may look unconventional
It may look dangerous
It may look messy
But Jesus was not always nice and tidy. His love was reckless and very rarely made sense.
My hope through sharing this story is to encourage all of us to not over-complicate sharing the gospel. World change doesn’t happen always from the pulpit or within massive gatherings. World change begins one person at a time.
When faced with a need, you can do one of two things:
Choose to ignore?
Choose to love?
Let us always choose love