What's Important to Jesus?


Matt. 25:40 And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (NRSV)



The Pharisees were hung up on wanting to do really "important" stuff for Jesus. So much so that they had lengthy conversations about how to wear their clothing and how to pray and when to pray and how to walk. They were proud of themselves for being so spiritual, and yet, none of their spirituality involved a relationship with the poor and the needy. It was all about their own personal "spirituality" and how that looked from the outside. Jesus let them know that he really didn't care about those things. The things that they had poured themselves into, the things that they thought were so important, Jesus saw as having no value. Why? Because God's people were to be his ambassadors on the earth and this God of holy love desires for everyone to know him, and therefore his gracious activity in the world is to be all about bringing people into an intimate relationship with him. That's why Jesus told them that what was important was to bring the cup of cold water to the one in need. This was what was important to Jesus, because that little one, the innocent one, this was the one who needed that touch of holy love. The Pharisees went away frustrated because this was not how they wanted to define spirituality.



I live in East Ohio and many days each week I spend hours driving through the towns, villages, countryside and urban areas which make up this part of the country. One day I may be stuck in traffic behind a horse and buggy in Amish Country, while the next I'm driving through a former bustling small town with a rusted out factory or empty coal mine. I may be driving through the inner-city of Akron, Canton or Cleveland and look around at what had once been prestigious neighborhoods and are now down-right scarey. But every time I wonder how we can be Jesus to this neighborhood. How do we take a cup of cold water to the least of these who live in these communities and who so desperately need a touch from our holy loving God? That is exactly what we, as his followers are called to do.

The Jews had the temple in Jerusalem and they loved it dearly. They put much time and energy into taking care of that facility and little did they know that in a few years it would be destroyed. Jesus knew what was eternal and that was the good news about the kingdom of heaven and this is what needed to be spread to the world. It is within the kingdom of heaven that his followers begin to behave not as people who are out to protect an earthly temple, but as as kingdom citizens. Kingdom citizens are ever looking and searching for the one who needs that cup of cold water. For me, that may be in East Ohio, or it may also be around the world. Again today my mind goes back to the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) and the women and children around the world who are suffering at the hands of the more powerful, simply because they are weak. If you think about it, Jesus is already touching on the message of GBV in this very passage. What are we doing for the very least? This passage is Jesus describing the day of judgement! He is saying that we will be judged by what we did for the very least -- not for any "great" things that we thought we did for him. Today there will be women and children around the world who will be treated as commodities in the human sex-trade. Today there are little girls who will die of starvation because they were not deemed worthy enough to be fed. Today little girls will be aborted because they are not viewed valuable in man's eyes. And church, we are partially to blame. We have been caught up in taking care of the temple - or our church buildings and the congregations who attend them while there's been a world around us that is begging for a cup of cold water! We have been busy literally defending certain texts of scripture that would make the world believe that God thinks that women are not equal to men and therefore we have given the world an excuse to treat women and girls as second-class citizens, or no citizens at all.

Jesus IS the little girl who is dying today of starvation. Jesus IS the unemployed coal miner in East Ohio. And what's important to him is what we will be doing today to the very least of these!



Lord, please forgive me for when I've gotten it wrong, and may I see the world through your eyes, giving a cup of cold water to those in need. Amen.


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