Matthew 25:31-46 is a beautiful statement of Jesus’s concern for the weak and the vulnerable. It’s also a challenging exhortation for Christians to model the same concern.
But what exactly does Jesus mean by “the least of these”?
It’s often assumed that “the least of these” are society’s poor and downtrodden, and that, by implication, Jesus would have us support any program (church, government, or otherwise) that aims to help hurting people. While it is certainly good to care for those outside the church (Gal. 6:10), we must be careful not to make Matthew 25 say more than it means to say. How the government spends our tax dollars is a question that sincere Christians can disagree on. It’s not my place as a pastor to make definitive statements on proposed federal budgets.
What’s more important to me is that we handle the Bible carefully, both from the pulpit and in our public pronouncements. Which is why we should try to understand “the least of these” in its proper context. What Jesus says in Matthew 25 is not “conservative” or “liberal.” It’s Christian, and has everything to do with how we treat other Christians.
“The least of these” refers to other believers in need—specifically, itinerant Christian teachers dependent on other Christians for hospitality and support. That’s my answer to the title of this blog post.
Let me offer four points in support of this interpretation.