December 10, 2018
“The king will answer, ‘Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.’” Matthew 25:40 (CEV)
I was just about to whine about the heat of the day when I saw her. She was walking beside the road with her head hung low, and despite my instinct to keep driving, my heart just couldn’t listen.
It was a record-setting day for heat in the South, with temperatures reaching triple digits. A frail, exhausted and obviously very pregnant woman was walking along the edge of the busy highway wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants, both of which were hanging off her tiny, heat-exhausted body.
Her level of hopelessness and despair were evident in her physical demeanor and posture.
I sensed God tugging at my heart to help her, but as my hands gripped the steering wheel, excuses gripped my mind. I’m already late picking up my daughter from cheerleading practice. It’s dangerous to pick up strangers on the side of the road. Other people might think I’m crazy if I stop to help. Someone else will come to her aid.
But God’s pull to turn around was stronger than my excuses to keep driving. Despite my hesitations, I listened to my heart instead of my head.
Making a U-turn, I pulled up slowly beside her and asked if she needed help, then discovered she was a couple hours from home, and her car had run out of gas. The nearest station was five miles away, and she had no way to get gas, physically or financially. I realized she and her unborn child were in danger, and she needed someone to care enough to help a stranger.
Jesus shares in Matthew 25 about the importance of caring for the least of these. In biblical times, many people lived with the false belief that those who were seemingly inferior — living in poverty, hunger, imprisoned, diseased or sick — were unimportant and unworthy of attention or love. But some people chose to exhibit love and mercy despite that societal mindset.
In Matthew 25:34-36, Jesus describes what will happen at His second coming. He explains how a group of followers had already given Him food and drink, visited Him in prison, clothed Him when He was naked, and cared for Him when He was sick. They were confused because they knew they hadn’t actually done these things for Jesus (and had never even seen Him before).
Then Jesus explained to them, “‘Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me’” (Matthew 25:40b). He wanted them to understand that when caring for others, they were also caring for Him, and their actions to love the “least of these” were equivalent to serving the Savior.
Unfortunately, society hasn’t changed much. Today, there are more lost and needy people in the world than ever before, and Jesus’ instructions to love “the least of these” are just as important now as they were then — if not more.
I’ll admit, I don’t always follow God’s nudging to serve the least of these, but on this particularly hot day, I paused to help this young woman in need. It did seem like a risky decision; I was late in picking up my daughter. And when I arrived to her practice with a total stranger in the passenger seat, some people did think I was a little crazy.
But helping those in need is always worth the sacrifice. It only takes one person’s obedience to make an earthly — possibly eternal — difference in another person’s life.
How different might the world be today if we allowed God’s whispers to drown out the opinions of naysayers, instead of filling our heads with excuses for not helping? Or if, when God calls us out of our comfort zones, we would put aside our inhibitions and commit to being His hands and feet anyway?
After dropping off this sweet lady at her car with a tank full of gas, she waved at me with a big, thankful smile and quietly uttered the words, “God bless you.”
But in my heart, I knew He already had as His joy swelled within me.
Dear Lord, give me Your eyes to see those in need this Christmas season, but also throughout the coming year. I want to be filled with joy because I listened to my heart instead of my head and served You by loving and serving those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 2:3-4, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” (NLT)
Today’s devotion comes from Tracie Miles’ book, Love Life Again: Finding Joy When Life is Hard. Purchase it to reclaim your joy or as a gift for someone who longs to reclaim theirs.
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Visit Tracie’s blog for more encouragement and ideas on being the hands and feet of Jesus this Christmas season.
REFLECT AND RESPOND:
When has God nudged you to reach out to someone, but you looked the other way?
Is there anyone in your life today who might need a helping hand? In what ways can you reach out to them or even someone you don’t know? Join the conversation in today’s comments section!
© 2018 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.
Originally published Monday, 10 December 2018.