The Least Of These
“THE LEAST OF THESE
Our topic for this week coincides with our topic for this quarter, “The least of these.” Since Jesus in Matthew 25 uses our treatment of “the least of these” as the basis for separating His flock, the sheep, from the those in the world, the goats, our focus this week will be on “the least of these”, who they are, and why they are important to us both individually, and as a church.
As individuals, it is often easier for us to consider helping people that we know and are familiar with and/or comfortable with such as family, friends, and church family. I know I can relate to this myself and I suspect others can too. However, Jesus looks at those in need from a much broader perspective with His infinite agape love as we see in the following EGW quote:
“But not to any class is Christ's love restricted. He identifies Himself with every child of humanity. That we might become members of the heavenly family, He became a member of the earthly family. He is the Son of man, and thus a brother to every son and daughter of Adam. His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them. They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints. The fallen, the erring, and the sinful, Christ's love embraces; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to Him. DA 638.4
The angels of heaven are sent forth to minister to those who shall be heirs of salvation. We know not now who they are; it is not yet made manifest who shall overcome, and share the inheritance of the saints in light; but angels of heaven are passing throughout the length and breadth of the earth, seeking to comfort the sorrowing, to protect the imperiled, to win the hearts of men to Christ. Not one is neglected or passed by. God is no respecter of persons, and He has an equal care for all the souls He has created.” DA 639.1
As we become more aware that He loves us all equally, we may also start to see that from Christ’s perspective all of us are in need as well—it may be physical, spiritual, mental or all of the above as mind, body and spirit go together. This is indeed a humbling thought, especially for His last day church as in Revelation 3, our Laodicean condition is described as being “rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” (physical or spiritual). Jesus is looking to open our eyes, minds, and hearts to our true condition that “thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, blind, and naked.” He wants to take us to the point where all we can do is look up to Him as our Saviour and High Priest so that He can use us through the power of the Holy Spirit to help others with their needs—physical, spiritual and mental. Thus, He deserves all the credit, not us.
This creates a beautiful scene which EGW describes as follows:
“As you open your door to Christ's needy and suffering ones, you are welcoming unseen angels. You invite the companionship of heavenly beings. They bring a sacred atmosphere of joy and peace. They come with praises upon their lips, and an answering strain is heard in heaven. Every deed of mercy makes music there. The Father from His throne numbers the unselfish workers among His most precious treasures.” DA 639.2
Everything we do is a response to God’s infinite agape love for us. As we begin to see more of His love and His incredible sacrifice for each of us and all of us, lives and hearts are changed. The following EGW quote describes the impact on us individually and as His last day church as well:
“The Saviour has given His precious life in order to establish a church capable of caring for sorrowful, tempted souls. A company of believers may be poor, uneducated, and unknown; yet in Christ they may do a work in the home, the neighborhood, the church, and even in “the regions beyond,” whose results shall be as far-reaching as eternity. DA 640.4
It is because this work is neglected that so many young disciples never advance beyond the mere alphabet of Christian experience. The light which was glowing in their own hearts when Jesus spoke to them, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” they might have kept alive by helping those in need. The restless energy that is so often a source of danger to the young might be directed into channels through which it would flow out in streams of blessing. Self would be forgotten in earnest work to do others good. DA 640.5
Those who minister to others will be ministered unto by the Chief Shepherd. They themselves will drink of the living water, and will be satisfied. They will not be longing for exciting amusements, or for some change in their lives. The great topic of interest will be, how to save the souls that are ready to perish. Social intercourse will be profitable. The love of the Redeemer will draw hearts together in unity.” DA 641.1
As stated above, ‘the love of the Redeemer will draw hearts together in unity.’ It is God’s unselfish, unending, infinite agape love and His gift to us of everything He had when He gave us His Son to die the eternal death for all mankind --- God is love! When we come to appreciate and believe what He has already done for us, this is what draws us to Him and changes hearts so we desire nothing more than to abide (remain) in Him to fulfil His promise to abide (remain) in us (John 15).
This is what the “most precious message” given to us through Elders Waggoner and Jones is all about—to bring to the world the uplifted Saviour, to direct all to His Divine Person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. (TM 91/92). Here are a few quotes you may enjoy that deal with this in the context of our lesson study on “the least of these”.
1. “In this lesson Jesus fully identifies Himself with suffering humanity. He says: “I was hungered,” “I was thirsty,” “I was a stranger,” “I was sick,” “I was in prison.” “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.” So completely is it that “the Word became flesh.” Furthermore, it is “the Son of Man” before whom “shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another.” And the Father “hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” Thus, the case of every member of the human family is committed to Him who was in all things “made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” How wonderfully are the love and mercy of God revealed in His dealings with His erring children!” PTUK May 12, 1898, p. 295.1 EJW
2. “Christ has passed through lower depths and darker trials than any that ever have been or can be experienced by His earthly children. He did this that He might “save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him.” He descended to the lowest depths of human woe, that He might reach and save those who were sunken therein, as well as those who had fallen less low. PTUK December 14, 1893, p. 578.6
And not only has the Son of God been through all these dark places, but He is in each one of them with you. When you feel, He feels. He identifies Himself with you in all your trials and sufferings. And thus it is that He will say to those who have clothed the naked, and visited the sick, fed the hungry, and in other ways ministered to the necessities of the needy, “Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did it unto Me.” PTUK December 14, 1893, p. 578.7 EJW
3. “This truth draws us to the point where we shall always be doing everything possible to put forth the attractions of Christ, the graces of Christ and the goodness of Christ to men who know Him not but in whom He has invested all so that they may be drawn to where they, too, will respect the goodness of Christ and the wondrous investment that He has made in them. GCB/GCDB 1895, p. 310.3
If you are doing it for the man’s sake or for your own credit, you may be taken in, of course. But if you do it as unto Christ and because of Christ’s interest in the man, it is literally impossible for you ever to be taken in, for Christ ever liveth and doth not forget. “Give to Him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” GCB/GCDB 1895, p. 310.4
Here is the principle: It is to Christ that we are doing it. And as stated in the previous lesson, though the man may despise Christ and never believe on Him as long as the world lasts and may sink into perdition at the last, Christ in that great day when I stand on His right hand yonder will not have forgotten it. And in remembrance of it He will then say: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” GCB/GCDB 1895, p. 310.5 ATJ
4. “Christ has allied Himself with every human being, on His own part; and if every human being in the world tonight should drop everything and say, “Yes, that is a fact; He and I are one, and He is the one,” every soul would be saved tonight, and Christ would appear in every soul tomorrow. GCB/GCDB 1895, p. 303.8
Now brethren there is another thing that comes in here in our own practical experience. Christ has allied Himself to every human being. Then when He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it [or not done it] unto one of the least of these my brethren; ye have done it [or not done it] unto me,” how widespread is that truth? Suppose one comes to my door as a tramp; suppose he be ill dressed and perhaps has not had a good chance to wash himself as clean as he ought to be. Who is allied to him? Jesus. Who has invested His all in that man? The Lord Jesus. Then as I treat that man, who is affected? The Lord Jesus, to be sure. GCB/GCDB 1895, p. 303.9
Shall I treat that man according to the estimate of Christ’s investment or according to my opinions, as the world looks upon the man? That is the question.” GCB/GCDB 1895, p. 303.10 ATJ
The common thread that we have seen in the quotes above and in our study is God’s infinite and unending love for every human soul or as it says above, “Christ has allied Himself to every human being and He has invested His all in that man.” “That man” is us and it is our response to His love that in turn will affect how we respond to “the least of these” in Christ and through Christ.
There is a thought provoking quote in Friday’s lesson by EGW (Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pg.42):
“Christ tears away the wall of partition, the self-love, the dividing prejudice of nationality, and teaches a love for all the human family. He lifts men from the narrow circle that their selfishness prescribes; He abolishes all territorial lines and artificial distinctions of society. He makes no difference between neighbors and strangers, friends and enemies. He teaches to look upon every needy soul as our neighbor and the world as our field.”
As we close our study this week, let me leave you with one more EGW quote:
“Love to man is the earthward manifestation of the love of God. It was to implant this love, to make us children of one family that the King of glory became one with us. And when His parting words are fulfilled, “Love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12); when we love the world as He has loved it, then for us His mission is accomplished. We are fitted for heaven; for we have heaven in our hearts. DA 641.3
As we abide in Him and He promises to abide in us, may we indeed have “heaven in our hearts” as we go forward for Him!
Blessings, John and Monica