Today I’d like to begin with a common phrase in our culture: “Home for the Holidays!”
Good morning! Today, I thought I would submit the sermon that I preached on Sunday, November 28th. My hope is that it will provoke thought and cause action.
We have just finished up with Thanksgiving and soon enough we’ll be onto Christmas and New Year’s, so this statement “home for the holidays” seems very fitting. We all know that between now and then, they’ll be all sorts of parties and other get-togethers that make up ‘the holidays’.
It’s a time where family and friends draw near to share food, give gifts, reminisce about days gone by and reflect on the love they have for each other. All of this considered, when we are ‘home for the holidays’, it’s a perfect time to reflect on what we have versus what we are able to give.
“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.’” (Matthew 25:34-36)
“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.’” (25:37-40)
After looking through a few commentaries on this passage, there were varied interpretations. Some scholars would say that this passage is regarding the importance of caring for Jewish people or the Nation of Israel. Others regarded this passage as the care in which we as Believers give our missionaries and other ministry workers. Yet, others still, regard this as more of a practical passage, caring for those less-fortunate in society.
As I considered the context, I came to the conclusion that other Scriptural references lead me to believe that I should care for the all three of these groups: the Nation of Israel, our ministry workers and society’s outcasts. But today I would like to explore this passage in the more practical application of society’s outcasts. More specifically, caring for outcasts as it relates to three biblical principles of stewardship.
Scripture teaches us that God requires us to be good stewards of our money, our possessions and our time. It was very interesting to me that as we read Matthew 25:34-40, the same three areas of stewardship can be found in this teaching.
First, let’s look at money. At the time Jesus told this parable, it was not uncommon for people living in rural settings to have a few livestock and/or a small plot of land to grow produce. However, they would need to obtain items to care for their land and livestock, so money would have been needed.
For the urban setting, money was definitely essential, as all food for their households would have been purchased in the market. So, the call in verse 35, when Jesus said “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat,” is indeed a call for monetary sacrifice.
The next statement is a similar call. When Jesus said, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,” the original audience would have likely understood ‘drink’ to mean wine. Giving one’s drink (or wine) to someone other than immediate family, would have also been considered a monetary sacrifice.
Moving onto stewardship of possessions, we see this addressed next with, “I was a stranger and you invited me in,”. To the original audience, they would recognize that one’s home is the greatest of one’s possessions. The people allowed in one’s home would be family, friends or servant workers.
Fear of theft would have been at the fore-front of everyone’s mind at that time and therefore, strangers would not have been welcomed without some sort of recommendation from family or friend. Considering this fear, by welcoming a stranger into one’s home, the owner would definitely be regarded as sacrificing personal possessions.
Next, moving onto clothing, we read “I needed clothes and you clothed me,“. At this time, clothing was needed for three main reasons: First, to cover the embarrassment of nakedness. Secondly, to keep skin shaded from the sun in the heat of the day. Lastly, to keep warm in the cool of the night.
Clothing was made by hand or hand-operated devices which was time-consuming and costly. Therefore, the fabric and design of clothing would give a persona their status, and to give these items away would be also be a significant sacrifice of one’s possessions.
Lastly, we hear Jesus call for our time: “I was sick and you looked after me,” In Jesus’ day there were no operations or antibiotics. Looking after someone who was ill could have been a long drawn-out process of months or years, depending on the ailment. Caring for the sick would have been a huge sacrifice of time.
Furthermore, considering the possibility that one could contract the illness, there was a chance that further time on earth could be taken away through an early death. This being said, caring for the sick would be saved for family who were worth the sacrifice. To care for some stranger would be an outrageous request!
Moving onto visiting someone in prison, when Jesus said “I was in prison and you came to visit me.” The same worries come into play. In Jesus’ day, prisoners were not cared for in any humane way and there would have been an element of danger in visiting a prison. Often, prisoners would have been plagued with infection and disease.
Clearly, a person in their right mind would not enter into a prison facility unless a family member or close friend was being held there. Sure, there is the sacrifice of the time spent in the actual visitation of a prisoner. However, we see the larger sacrifice of one’s health and well-being as the sacrifice of one’s time.
As we continuing through this passage, we understand that in these three areas, Jesus was not actually speaking about Himself but in verse 40 states, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” So what does this mean for us? What challenge can we glean from this parable?
Let’s move back to our theme of being ‘home for the holidays.’ We have to face the reality that there are a number of people, even here in our home town, who did not have any type of get-together with family or friends this past week. Nor will they have any opportunity to take part in the many festivities planned throughout this next month.
Perhaps try to imagine this time of year as a youth who is homeless. Imagine walking through a store and seeing the well marketed ‘Stove-Top’ display, with a happy family sitting together at the table, in front of a giant turkey filled with that signature stuffing.
Furthermore, try to grasp the heartache that is experienced when that familiar carol is played over some load-speaker, reminding you of better days. The harsh reality is that regardless of how they became homeless, these youth do not have the option to be ‘home for the holidays’.
What can you do with your money, possessions and time; to assist these young people this holiday season?
Originally posted at QuietMorningsWithHim.com by Jeremy Norton.