I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was homeless.

So yesterday in my church, we were challenged to read Matthew 24 and 25 this week. And honestly, that was, for once, an easy challenge because Matthew 25 has been gripping my heart and my prayer time over this last week already.

Actually, some of these words have been almost haunting me as I pray for a refugee crisis that I feel so powerless to do anything about. I, like so many others, have stared at pictures that break my heart, and pleaded for people that have touched my heart, even though I don’t know them and may never know them and can’t even begin to comprehend what it is they are living through.

So reading was the easy challenge. And yet doing is the hardest.

The final words of Matthew 25 have been with me. Constantly with me.

When he finally arrives, blazing in beauty and all his angels with him, the Son of Man will take his place on his glorious throne. Then all the nations will be arranged before him and he will sort the people out, much as a shepherd sorts out sheep and goats, putting sheep to his right and goats to his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Enter, you who are blessed by my Father! Take what’s coming to you in this kingdom. It’s been ready for you since the world’s foundation. And here’s why:

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.’

Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.’

Then he will turn to the ‘goats,’ the ones on his left, and say, ‘Get out, worthless goats! You’re good for nothing but the fires of hell. And why? Because—

I was hungry and you gave me no meal,
I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
I was homeless and you gave me no bed,
I was shivering and you gave me no clothes,
Sick and in prison, and you never visited.’

Then those ‘goats’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn’t help?’

He will answer them, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.’

A few things have hit me as I have re-read this passage in my mind over and over and over and over.

The first is that on the outside, sheep and goats look really, really similar.

Seriously.

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit a farm on my day off. Yeah, yeah… I fed sheep. And goats. And then I watched a ‘sheep/goat race’ (because I am that ‘cool’). But the thing was, some of the animals were clearly distinguishable for me. I knew it was a sheep. Or I knew it was a goat. But… Some looked the same. Like, I know to the trained eye there are probably all kinds of small differences and ways that you can tell… But for me, on a purely surface level, they looked the same.

Which is challenging.

Because the first thing that hits me when I read this Matthew 25 passage in the thing that hits me in all of the Matthew 25 parables.

That we have to really love God. From the inside out. That it’s no good being in a place where everyone thinks I’m running hard after God, and everyone thinks I’m worshipping God through my lifestyle, and I look like I’m alive… If I’m dead on the inside. It’s no good looking like a sheep, when I’m a goat. Because Jesus sees straight through my facade to the reality.

So I start off this passage in the reality of love. That if I really want to love God and burn for Him from the inside-out then I have to chase what His heart is after and ask what it is that He is looking for.

Which is even more challenging when we think about His words.

That our love for Him, is not just a personal thing, but it is directly connected into how we love others. And that love for others is not merely emotional, but it is directly connected into how we treat others.

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

These are not the grand acts that make us famous. There’s nothing in these commands that can boost our ego or our reputation. Helping the homeless doesn’t often give you an earthly reward. Stopping to visit the sick or the imprisoned doesn’t often take you into earthly mansions. Walking slowly enough to notice the one who is shivering takes us out of the fast-running-past that life mostly takes place at.

But yet, this is what Jesus is looking for.

Our humility, expressed in how we love.

Our love, expressed in our humility.

It’s humble because these sheep, these ones who are obedient, don’t even recognise their work. They didn’t act a certain way in a measured out, ‘I’ll receive this reward’ kind of thinking. They just loved. In the natural overflow of desiring to serve the least of these.

And Jesus said that they did it for Him. He judged their motives and their heart.

As Mother Teresa said,

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.’

This passage both breaks and liberates my heart. It both frees me from worldly motivations and challenges me to desire others more than myself. It affects how I live. Who I spend time with. How I use my money. How I see the world.

An instance from my life is in my mind right now. Because this is the kind of heart I long for all the time, regardless of the news headlines.

I remember being 15 and heading off to America with my youth group, and joining with a homeless volunteer project based on the brutally cold winter streets of Minneapolis. We met with this old Catholic woman who ran a project that gave meals and temporary housing to those who were desperate.

She prayed with us and for us.

And then we watched her wash the feet of every single person who came through the doors. Seriously.

In the unseen, in what many thought was unnecessary or extravagant, she felt that restoring people’s dignity came through forging a connection that was deeper than the physical and reached into their humanity.

I can’t help but think she got this passage in a way I aspire to one day.

It changes everything.

And it should break my heart. And it should challenge me. And it should change us.

And that is my prayer today.

Amen.

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One thought on “I was hungry. I was thirsty. I was homeless.

  1. You are just that cool! ahhaha! I was laughing when you said you can’t tell sheep from goats! (I think it’s just so cute to say. hahahaha!)
    But I was soooooooo encouraged and challenged by this post too. This is something that is really easy to understand ( we don’t need to go to a 4-year college program or read tons of books to know the meaning) yet, it is so hard-challenging to do. Praying that we would all have this kind of heart for people. keep posting, Luv!

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