Everyone has heard the story of the sheep and the goats where the phrase “the least of these” is found. That phrase seems pretty self explanatory. You don’t have to ask who is the least of these since there is a whole list of struggles and solutions right in Matthew 25. Hungry, thirsty, homeless. Got it.
Lately I have been reading Scripture in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase The Message: the Bible in Contemporary Language so that words that have become familiar might sound different enough to stand out. Like this for instance, “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.” (emphasis mine)
Overlooked and ignored. Those words take this Scripture out of the realm of the haves and the have nots and put it smack in the middle of every day. The middle school girl hungry for acceptance. The UPS driver thirsty for kindness. The coal miner working two states away from home. The addict imprisoned by their addiction. The well-dressed woman in the second row, pulpit side at church who hasn’t told anyone she has cancer. Overlooked or ignored.
These everyday people are Jesus’ least of these too. When we overlook them, ignore them we are overlooking and ignoring God in our midst. Too often we identify Jesus’ least of these as people with few or no tangible resources. And that is not a bad thing. But Petersen’s “overlooked and ignored” opens up the door to the world, all the way up to the rich and powerful. And I would dare say that they too are hungry, thirsty, sick and in prison. It just looks different in my eyes. But not the eyes of God.
So who are your “least of these”? Who do you overlook or ignore? Scripture says you are doing it to Jesus.