Youth from our church volunteer their time to help the least of these.

“From the Hart” Devotional for Feb. 29, 2024

“The Least of These”
by Julie Hart, Director of Connectional Ministries

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Matthew 25:40

Last week I was blessed to be able to go to dinner and a show with some friends from church. I ate every bit of my dinner (and a little bit of my friend’s sitting next to me dinner) but my friend across from me had not even eaten half of hers. She got a to-go box to take the rest of her food home and we talked about how much we loved having leftovers — how the food tastes even better the second time around, how it’s another meal all ready to go, and so on. Moments later, we left the restaurant to walk to the show. A woman who was presumably living on the streets came up to our group and asked if any of us had food that she could have. Without a moment’s hesitation, my friend Melanie handed the woman her box. The woman seemed surprised by this, but I was not the least bit surprised. That’s because I know Mel’s heart. I know that she is not a “talk-the-talk” kind of Christian. She spends every day of her life walking the walk.

Pastor David just started a sermon series called Short Stories by Jesus, and many of us are meeting in groups to learn more about the parables of Jesus. The scripture I have chosen for this week’s devo comes from a parable that he won’t be preaching on this series: The Sheep and the Goats. This parable is about the separating of the righteous (sheep) from the unrighteous (goats) on the day of final judgement.

And just what is it that separates the sheep from the goats? It’s what we do, as much as what we do not do, that places us in these categories. In today’s world, GOAT is slang for the “Greatest Of All Time,” but we know that the greatest of all time was Jesus, who taught us to be sheep. Being a follower of Jesus means loving Jesus, not just in words, but in action as well. The only way we can show our love to Jesus is by showing love to others, like giving our leftovers to the stranger on the street.

This week, I ask you to keep “the least of these” in your prayers as you ponder the following questions:

In this parable, Jesus refers to the group of people that he wants us to pay particular attention to as “the least of these.” The less fortunate people (our brothers and sisters) are people that Jesus describes as needing food, drink, clothes, company, or care. Which of “the least of these” on this list (hungry, thirsty, strangers, prisoners, sick) have you helped before? Which ones haven’t you helped before?

Sometimes we have no way of knowing if someone truly is “the least of these.” When someone tells you they are hungry or in need, but they don’t appear to be, how do you keep yourself from passing judgment on them and showing compassion instead?

In order to feed the hungry, visit the prisoner or welcome the stranger, we might need to leave the comfort of our homes and churches. What makes it hard for you to venture beyond your comfort zone to show this sacrificial love to others?

When have you ever been one of “the least” in need of a helping hand from a stranger? Did a stranger help you? How did that feel?

We have lots of ways to do for “the least of these” at Desert Spring Church. I encourage you to find one that might work for you. Come out to a food distribution, volunteer at the food pantry, bring a sack of food for our Sacks for Souls collection on Sunday, March 10th. We have ladies who volunteer with teen girls at the juvenile detention center, an adult prison ministry that is just getting off the ground, homebound folks who would love a visit from you, and our city is full of strangers who are just waiting for an invitation be a part of a welcoming church. What is one way you might show sacrificial love this week?

Lord God,
We thank you for the abundance in our lives. The creature comforts that we sometimes take for granted: the food on our tables, the friends in our lives, our church, our loved ones. We long to love you the way that you love us. Let our eyes be open to see our brothers and sisters in need, our arms be open to welcoming them, and our hearts be open to loving them.