Pop star Cliff Richard tells of his visit to a refugee camp in Bangladesh: “The first morning I must have washed my hands at least a dozen times. I didn’t want to touch anything, least of all the people. Everyone in those camps was covered in sores and scabs.”
“I was bending down to one little mite, mainly for the photographer's benefit, and trying hard not to have too close a contact. Just then someone accidentally stepped on the child's fingers. He screamed and, as a reflex, I grabbed him, forgetting his dirt and his sores. I remember that warm little body clinging to me and the crying instantly stopping. In that moment I knew I had much to learn about practical Christian loving, but at least I'd started” (as told in Which One's Cliff?).
Two days before He was crucified, Jesus told a story about love and motivation and judgment. He did not say it was a parable. The clear indication is, Jesus was giving His listeners a glimpse into the future. Every human being was assembled before someone identified only as “The King.” We assume it was Jesus. The throng was then divided into two groups.
To the group standing on His right side, the King said, “My Father has given you his blessing. Receive the kingdom God has prepared for you since the world was made.”
“Do you remember,” the King asked, “when I was hungry and you fed me? Do you remember when I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink? When I was a stranger and you took me in? When I was sick and you came to see me? Do you remember when I was in prison and you visited me, naked and you clothed me?”
Those people answered, “Frankly, Lord, we don't ever remember that. You say you were a stranger, hungry and thirsty, sick, naked, and a prisoner? And we helped you? When was that?”
The King answered, “When you unselfishly, and without any thought of reward, did it for someone far down the social ladder, you did it to me. When, at inconvenience and even possible risk to yourself, you touched another human being, you did it to me.”
The things that Jesus mentioned are things anyone can do. Anyone can give a hungry man a meal, or a thirsty man a drink. Anyone can visit the prisons, or cheer the sick, or welcome a stranger. It is not a question of doing something that will get us noticed, or get our name in lights or in bold print headlines. It is a simple case of giving assistance to the people we meet every day.
The things that Jesus mentioned are things which must be done without calculation. The people who performed those simple ministries did not imagine they were piling up eternal merit. They did not know they were helping Jesus. They were surprised when He told them they had done those things for Him. What was done was done from instinct and with love.
Those ones who did not help responded, “Lord, if we had known it was you, we would have visited and fed and clothed.” That is precisely why they were condemned. To help because you will be praised for helping is not help. It is not generosity. It is disguised selfishness and poorly disguised at that.
Jesus said that in the last days there will be people who will come to the bar of judgment and protest, “But, Lord! We did miracles in Your name. We cast out demons in Your name. We did wonderful things in Your name.”
And the Lord's response will be, “I don't care if you did it in my name, you were not motivated to do it by my name.”
Did someone ever do something for you and you wondered, “Now why did he do that?” Do you ever wonder what motivates God? His Word spells it out like this: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His only begotten Son to be the suitable sacrifice for our sins.” Jesus could say, “Inasmuch as you did it unto the least of these,” because He was going to die for the very least, and for the greatest. And die because He loves us. That was His motivation. Are you moved by that love?
David Sisler's newspaper column, Not For Sunday Only, is in its 13th year of weekly publication. For reprint permission, or to subscribe, contact Mr. Sisler at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)