Who is “the least of these”?

Maybe I’m still stuck on All Saints’ Day.  Maybe I’m thinking too much about our last real-life Draughting Theology of the fall.  Maybe I’m still a little groggy from the Nyquil I took last night.  Whatever the reason, I can’t seem to get the question, “What makes a Saint?” out of my head.  As I read the Gospel lesson appointed for Christ the King, the question morphed into “Who is ‘the least of these’?”  As I read Jesus’ words, my tendency is to see me as either a sheep or a goat, and ask myself, have I been faithful in serving the least?  The more I think about it, however, the more I wonder if I’m coming at this from the wrong angle.

The least of these includes:

  • The hungry
  • The thirsty
  • Strangers
  • The naked
  • The sick
  • Prisoners

As a middle class American, I don’t really know what it means to be hungry, thirsty, or naked.  I’ve never been imprisoned, but I most certainly have been a stranger and I’ve known some form of sickness.  I am “the least of these,” and, I suspect, so are you.  Perhaps this story is less about how I judge myself as a sheep or a goat or how I judge my neighbor on the same grounds, but how we, as a community of the “least of these”, takes care of one another amid the trials and tribulations of this life.  The first part of taking care of one another comes when I finally admit that I am, in fact, one of the least of these and in need of help.  This can be difficult because it requires vulnerability and nobody likes to be vulnerable, but it is only in our willingness to be helped that others have the opportunity to serve.  It is by practicing service in the midst of the congregation that we learn to reach out beyond ourselves and serve the wider community of “the least of these.”

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