34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 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, 36 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.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “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.’ Matthew 25:34-40
When we lived in South Africa there was so much need around, it was easy to respond to and feel like you were doing your “bit”. It was equally as easy to ignore, and to come up with justifications as to why you didn’t respond to, the need. You could feel satisfied about the fact that you were donating to a Christian charity which helps those less fortunate than yourself, you could tell yourself you were doing “your bit”. Now that we are in the United Kingdom, the same level of need isn’t staring us in the face. We can stay in a very comfortable bubble, contribute to a charity, sponsor an orphan in Africa and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.
However, Matthew 25 doesn’t let us do that. It is hard hitting and the consequences are eternal. When I read it this time I asked myself what we were doing as a family to help the hungry, needy, sick, imprisoned and the stranger? What I realised was that this verse is incredibly personal. It is about compassion. About recognising people in need around you and responding in a practical, personal way. It is about seeing someone and responding with compassion to their unique situation. It is about seeing Jesus in every person you meet. This is about the attitude of our hearts and the way we live out our lives. It isn’t about handing over cash and the responsibility to someone else, even though supporting charities and sponsoring children is a very valuable thing to do.
I also wonder about how to involve my daughter in practically responding to the needs of others. To help her see the bigger picture and not to be swallowed up into our individualistic, consumerist culture. It would probably be easier if we were still living in South Africa, but I still need to model compassion and response for her. I need live a truly Christian life.