The Requirement of Mission
"Make Sure You Care for the Overlooked in Life"
A young lady named Sally, relates an experience she had in college given by her teacher, who we'll call Brother Smith. Brother Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons. One particular day, Sally walked into class and knew they were in for another fun day. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Brother Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who made them angry... and he would allow them to throw darts at the person's picture. Sally's girlfriend (on her right), drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend. Another friend (on her left), drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of Brother Smith, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even drawing pimples on his face. Sally was pleased at the overall effect she had achieved.
The class lined up and began throwing darts with much laughter and hilarity. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn; and was filled with disappointment when Brother Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats. As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn't have a chance to throw any darts at her target, Brother Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus. A complete hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus; holes and jagged marks from the darts covered His face and His eyes were pierced out. Brother Smith said only these words, "In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me," (Matthew 25:40 KJV). No other words were necessary; the tear-filled eyes of each student focused only on the picture of Christ. The students remained in their seats . . . even after the bell rang . . . then slowly left the classroom, tears streaming down their faces. In truth, they felt that they had mutilated Jesus by humiliating one of God's children.
We must be very careful in life not to make fun of people: how they look, what they make, how poor they are, what family they come from. It's very easy to think we are above some people or better than some people. This dangerous form of pride can easily make it so that we feel we don't have to bother with some people. But, I tell you now, our scripture for today would very much disagree with that way of thinking.
In Matthew, the 25th chapter, Jesus is talking about who gets to heaven and who does not. Most of us think we should be allowed to go to heaven. Some may try to recall what they've done to deserve heaven. Others may figure they are nice people and should go to heaven. Jesus, on the other hand, notes that there is a key component to those who go to heaven. They care for those others overlook.
In this gospel story, Jesus talks about God separating those who go to heaven and those who go to hell. Those who go to hell are described as people who "didn't feed the hungry, visit the sick and imprisoned for the faith." (Read Matthew 25:41-45) They didn't take the time or effort to care for those who were poor and needed clothes. They also didn't welcome strangers; instead they made them feel ill-at-ease. The heaven-bound are precisely opposite. They care for the poor. They feed the hungry. They make sure those with inadequate clothes are given something to wear. They visit people in need. They are welcoming, even to strangers. Jesus ended his words by saying, "As you do unto the least of these (the poor, the hungry, the needy, the stranger), you did it unto me."(Matthew 25:40) In other words, as you cared for those people who are often overlooked in life, you cared for Jesus.
Let's be honest and admit it, hungry people are often overlooked. People in need are often forgotten when we make our budgets, our purchases, our plans, even our tithes. I've seen people turn away from a poor person who needed a hand, seen people who walked right past someone who was hurt without even bothering to help. I've known people who didn't share a cent with anyone, but kept it all for themselves. I've personally watched people make a new person in church feel very out of place. They weren't welcoming at all. We overlook so many people in life. Mostly, we overlook people we look down upon. We overlook people we believe are inferior. We don't see the needs of others because we are too caught up in our own little world. In doing so, we actually miss seeing those who will help us receive our reward of heaven. We fail our Lord Jesus.
A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four year old grandson. The old man's hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table, but the elderly grandfather's shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The family grew tired of cleaning up after grandpa. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. "We must do something about Grandfather," said the man. "I've had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor." So, the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl.
When the family glanced in Grandfather's direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. They ignored him. The only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four year old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, "What are you making?" Just as sweetly, the boy responded, "Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up." The four year old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That very evening, the husband took Grandfather's hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days, he ate every meal with the family. Thereafter, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
In this story, Grandfather was overlooked. His age and weakness made him a liability instead of a joy to the family… until they learned otherwise. Don't overlook people in your life who may have problems, trials, difficulties, or handicaps. It is those very people who can teach you so much about life, love, and how to get to heaven.
Beth was sitting at an airport terminal waiting to board a plane. She had been on an extended trip of speaking engagements and was ready to get home to her family. Waiting for her plane, she pulled out her Bible and started to read. All of a sudden, she felt as if the people sitting there around her were looking at her. She looked up but realized that they were looking just over her head, in the direction right behind her. She turned to see what everyone was looking at. When she did, she saw a flight attendant pushing a wheelchair with the ugliest old man sitting in it. He had long white hair that was all tangled and such a mess. His nails were long and unkempt. He had a blanket over his legs. His face was very wrinkled. He didn't look friendly at all as he slouched over and bounced at the movement of the wheelchair. She didn't know why, but she felt drawn to the man and thought at first that God wanted her to witness to him. In her mind, she was thinking, "Oh God, please not now, not here."
Fighting back humiliation, but wanting to be obedient, she left her seat. Seeing a brush attached to the bag on his wheelchair, she knelt down in front of the old man and said, "Sir may I have the honor of brushing your hair for you?" The old man just looked at her confused and said, "Well, I guess if you really want too."
She began brushing his hair. Just as she was finishing up, she heard the old man crying. Kneeling in front of him, she put her hands on his knees and looked directly into his eyes and said, "Sir, do you know Jesus?" He answered, "Yes, of course I know Jesus. You see, my bride told me she couldn't marry me unless I knew Jesus, so I learned all about Jesus, and asked Him to come into my heart many years ago, before I married my bride." After a moment, he continued, "You know, I am on my way home to go and see my wife. I have been in the hospital for a long time and had to have a special surgery in this town far from my home. My wife couldn't come with me because she is so frail herself. I was so worried about how terrible my hair looked, and I didn't want her to see me looking so awful, but I couldn't brush my hair all by myself."
Tears were rolling down his cheeks as he thanked Beth for brushing his hair. He thanked her over and over again. She was crying; people all around who watched had tears. As they were boarding the plane, the teary flight attendant stopped her and asked, "Why did you do that?"
All Beth could say was: "He needed me."
Don't overlook those who may be an opportunity for you to show your faith. Jesus will put people in your life who need you. Don't overlook them. By acts of faith, you demonstrate to God that you understand how to live righteously. By your mission, you show God that among the least of those in this world, you are one who will show love when others would just walk away. Now, have you figured out yet who needs you? Who has God sent for you to help today?