“Whoever has done it unto the least of these….”

We should see every poor person as an icon of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, because what we do to the least of these we do unto HIM.

  • James Mace

    Dear Ben,

    I hope Turkey is going well, and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow in here St. Andrews!

    Yet, as it leads to a decrease of love for suffering fellow Christians, as well as other undesirable effects like false biblical warrant for establishment of a Progressive theocracy, I must oppose abuse of Matt 25:40: “The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”

    This example of fictive kinship for those within the Covenant should make obvious to any with eyes to see that specifically intra-covenantal mutually loving loyalty/faithfulness is the topic, not generally humanistic benevolence to still-fallen and marred individuals separated from the community incarnating the Imago Trinitatis. Even Gal 6:10 maintains the distinction between Church and world, with a clear priority given to helping Christian brothers and sisters before others.

    Furthermore, this Israelite scope for the teaching in 25:40 is indicated by the preceding co-text since the parable from the fig tree in Matt 24:32, the immediately preceding separation of the sheep from the goats (Matt 25:32), etc.

    You who so oppose Rome should be interested in correcting this popular abuse of 25:40 since it is now empowering centralization within an increasingly pseudo-theocratic government under the rubric of legislatively-administratively-judicially enforcing involuntary general social compassion done in the name of the Statist idol to which the power and the glory goes.

    I hope we get a chance to discuss such things tomorrow evening, brother Ben!

    Agape, James

  • http://michaeldeshanehinton.blogspot.com/ Michael DeShane Hinton, M.Div.

    I second James Mace’s objection to universalizing the sheep and goats analogy. There is, of course, a doctrine of general beneficence but the form it takes must be practical because there is no ethical principle that is not first workable and done sincerely. Indicating the futility of universal benevolence Jesus said, “The poor you have with you always,” countering Judas’ pretension of righteousness, who all the while was pilfering the group’s common funds, provided voluntarily to support the message and cause of Christ. We might be tempted to say that charity begins at home but it does not. It begins in the heart by calling folk to repent so as to improve their prospects of eternal life. I understand the temptation to inoculate students against progressive bishops by giving them a dose of “this world” theology. But any view that begins with material need falls quickly into the trap of dissolving our primary mission in the world, which stated is “a never-dying soul to save and fit it for the sky.”

  • Ernie

    “Even Gal 6:10 maintains the distinction between Church and world, with a clear priority given to helping Christian brothers and sisters before others.”

    Sounds a bit like, “Who, then, is my neighbor?”

    Seems like Jesus answered that.

  • Oscar

    Nice post, but shattering a false paradigm that has been ingrained for so many years is usually resisted by all means necessary. My antidote, though, would be Jesus’ words when he said “Give to him that asketh thee, and from he that would borrow from thee turn not thou away” Also ” “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure–pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” This is not to say MY exegesis won’t be discounted in turn…

  • Carrie Allen

    Amen, Dr. Witherington. Amen.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    Hi James:

    Nope, not about covenant love.


  • http://www.fether.net Paula

    Since the ones being judged are doing good deeds in Jesus’ name, they must be people who have knowledge and acceptance of Jesus. But the Church is not being judged at this event, having already been taken into heaven, which means their salvation was already confirmed. We are not “the nations” but “a new creation”, “neither Jew nor Greek”. So I see that passage as referring to the end of the Millennium, when Jesus makes a distinction on the basis of how the Jews were treated by the Gentiles during the Tribulation.

  • http://neoprimitive.wordpress.com/ Jeremy Marshall

    @James Mace, but perhaps BW3 can speak to this as well. I’ve always assumed that when Jesus spoke of “the least of these, my brethren,” he meant that “the least of these” are his “brethren.” I.e., his people are the degraded and humiliated of society. I don’t think this leads inevitably to a “theocratic” interventionism so long as the church discerns her vocation in the world as involving care for the poor. To me, your logic could easily be employed to cover contempt for the unfortunate behind a patina of theological credibility. Just a thought.

  • Danny Dawson

    I would say that Hebrews 13:2 also seems to be ambiguous or even ambivalent as to whether it is any kind of covenant love, unless it has a distinct understanding of who ‘strangers’ are.

  • http://www.benwitherington.com ben witherington

    In the OT, the ‘ger’ or stranger in the land is by definition not a person part of the covenant. It is an outsider to the covenant that one is to treat fairly, compassionately, lovingly. BW3

  • Patrick


    There’s an obscure verse in Exodus I read years ago. Hard to relocate, it says this(my vernacular), “any foreigner who wishes to celebrate passover shall be considered a member of the congregation of Israel”.

    That makes me wonder about this issue. As with the NT theology whereby those in Christ are “Jews inwardly, circumcized in our hearts”,etc.