What are the things in life that bring you the most joy? I have quite a few. Date night with Shauna at a fantastic Italian restaurant. Being in this room with all of you on a Sunday when God’s presence is undeniable. Being in a meeting with our staff team when an idea surfaces and instantly, we all sense that God Himself is breathing it into existence. Here’s another thing that brings me so much joy: when I experience the generosity of others towards our children. You might think, “Ben, you’re not even the one receiving the gift.” And I would tell you, “Oh yes I am. When you do something for them, it is such a gift to me.”
I wonder if it’s the same for God – that one of the things that brings Him the most joy is when He sees us doing things for His children. What if it’s so significant to Him that He feels like He’s the one receiving what we’re giving to His children?
I’m convinced that when we don’t even think we’re doing anything all that special, we’re actually getting the attention of Jesus. This is what I want to talk about today in a message I’m calling, “When the Least is the Most”.
As we walk into this Scripture, Jesus is talking about eternity. So often, we find it challenging to connect our life on this earth to our eternal life. Jesus is going to make a massive connection between the two. He’s talking about how there will be two groups at the end of all things – those who will spend eternity with Him and those who will be separated from Him forever. And then He says this:
Matthew 25:34-46 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 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.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of these least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
How can Jesus claim that our entire eternity comes down to what we do in this one category? Do we really get eternity with God by doing these things? Will we really miss out on eternity with God if we fail to do these things?
John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
Receive Him. Believe in His name. Become children of God. But if we truly become children of God, over time our lives will look like His.
We’ve spent the entire summer in this series called, Moving Forward: The Path of Transformation. We’re all being formed, so we want to make sure we’re being formed in the ways of Jesus. But our spiritual formation can never be only about us. Here is Robert Mulholland’s definition for spiritual formation:
“Spiritual formation is a process of being conformed to the image of Christ FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS.” Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey
Transformation happens when we apply our faith…when we do something that Jesus has told us to do. We said this back in week 1 of this series:
Transformation > Information
After the longest teaching Jesus ever gave, which was full of information, he said this:
Matthew 7:24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Hears AND puts them into practice.
Sometimes we assume we have to do something spectacular to demonstrate our faith in God. But what if Jesus is calling us to do something that seems more simple and ordinary? Here’s another time that Jesus emphasized something that seems so insignificant.
Mark 9:41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
Jesus makes it so clear that what we do matters. But we also need to understand that why we do what we do matters just as much. Our motives matter.
The tricky thing about motives is that they cannot be seen, at least not initially.
Remember the time a woman broke a very expensive jar of perfume and poured it out on Jesus. Listen to what Judas said and what his true motives were.
John 12:4-6 But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Now think about Judas and contrast this with all of the outrage in our world today.
It is possible to be very vocal about all the injustices in our world without actually doing anything for anyone.
Jesus hasn’t asked us to simply name all of the problems in our world. He has asked us to become the solution to some of them.
We’re all aware that there’s so much need in our world. In fact, we see so much need that we aren’t sure anything or anyone could ever make things better. And this can cause us to just give up and do nothing. But I want to encourage you with what Jesus says in this passage and how Andy Stanley frames this:
“Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone.” – Andy Stanley
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.” – Mother Teresa
Because we know that Jesus loved the world and ultimately laid down his life for the whole world, we can easily forget how He lived His earthly life. Yes, he invited himself to Zacchaeus’s house, but he didn’t do this for every tax collector. Yes, he spent time with a Samaritan woman at the well. But he didn’t do that with every Samaritan woman. Yes, he brought Lazarus back to life. But he didn’t resurrect every dead person.
What are you doing for people who cannot do anything for you?
What if meeting the needs of others meets one of your greatest needs?
See I think we all have this need to not live a self-centered or self-absorbed life. When I start taking care of other people, it blesses them and it frees me too.
In November of 2011, when Epic was less than a year old, we entered into our first international partnership. We began a church to church partnership with United Christian Centre in Uganda through Compassion International. We would help the church do ministry and we would sponsor children through Compassion. On that first Compassion Sunday, there were individual packets with specific kids on them – just like we have today. Our family chose Saddam.
He was 8 at the time. We began to give the monthly amount needed to sponsor him. We began to write him and he began to write us back. The next year, I had the privilege of being on Epic’s first-ever team to go to Uganda. I’ll never forget the first time my eyes caught his. We embraced. He was so happy. I was able to visit his home. I was able to look at all of his school files and his health reports. I was able to watch him play soccer.
I’ve been to visit Saddam three more times since that trip.
He’s now 19 years old.
Today you have the ability to do something for another child in Uganda, just like we’ve been able to do for Saddam. Over 200 kids have been sponsored through Epic Church individuals and families over the past 11 years. But it gets even better. Not only do you have the opportunity to do something for a child in need, but you have an opportunity to do something for Jesus. And not only will you do something for a child and for Jesus. You will do something for you. You’ll be transformed as you engage in this and anything like this.
Matthew 18:1-5 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
The disciples want to know: Who is the greatest in the kingdom? And Jesus essentially says – The Least on earth is the Greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And when you welcome a child, you’re actually welcoming Jesus.
When we had nothing to give Jesus, He gave everything to us. He invited us in. He welcomed us. As we prepare to make a difference in the lives of others, Jesus is preparing a kingdom for us.
Welcome Jesus into your life by placing your faith and confidence in His love, His death, His resurrection…and receive eternal life.
Welcome one of these children by sponsoring them through Compassion.