Who are “the least of these”? My full-time gig is writing about Middle East policy and underreported news from Israel and Palestine. Every day I tell my Palestinian-slash-American-citizen husband what’s new back in his homeland. Every day I uncover story after story of profound discrimination, rampant human rights abuses.
We marvel at the extremity and the duration of the human suffering there. Sometimes when he calls his family in Gaza, we weep over the deep injustice – and the callousness with which the West treats the situation.
Which makes me ashamed to wear that identity.
My husband (you can call him Z) said to me recently, “doesn’t it make you wonder about God sometimes? Why doesn’t God come and fix this?”
We talked about that for a long time. Ultimately we decided that of course God wasn’t to blame for injustice in the world, and we couldn’t expect God to fix it. That’s what we’re here for. As people of faith, whether Christian (like me) or Muslim (like him) or other faith, it’s our task to right the wrongs in the world. (I include here people whose faith lies in places other than a Supreme Being.)
Speaking as a Christian to Christians, if we truly believe that God is great and awesome and worthy of praise, we must make God’s awesomeness known in the places where hopelessness abounds. We should not be content living in prosperity while others live in misery. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth” is our To Do list.
Shame on us if we say to those in need, “just believe that God will give you strength to endure”; or “be thankful that you have a refugee tent/humanitarian rations/your health”; or worst, “God works all things together for good. This is part of God’s plan.”
As James 2:15-16 says,
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?
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 invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to 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.’
We need to do something about injustice – reading and learning and talking to others are good early steps (feel free to visit my other blog, Palestine Home for the reading and learning parts, if you’re interested in the region where Jesus walked). Then what? Donating out of our prosperity to reputable charities is an easy next step. Volunteering, advocacy – putting ourselves out there for the least of these – is the risky big step.
Your gut will tell you when it’s time, and it won’t be as scary as you think. And certain people groups or causes will tug at your heart, so you’ll know where to put your effort.
Some Christian denominations only support missions where “soul-saving” is the primary work. I’m done with that – done with the insinuation that the poor are worth feeding only if they’ve accepted my Jesus into their hearts. I’m done with treating people like they deserve clean clothes only when they jump through my hoops. I’m done pretending like right now doesn’t matter.
We know that in this day and age, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. We know better than to expect the rich to share. No, it’s on us, and it is a command (not a suggestion) from God to care for those in need.
We sing, “Our God is an awesome God,” “To God be the glory, great things he hath done.” How about we show others how awesome God is through humble generosity? How about we take the great things God has done in our lives, and pay it forward?
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