Ministering to the “Least of These”

Sometimes it’s easy to love the “least of these.” Other times, not so much. by Lori Hatcher

It’s easy to love children until they whine, tantrum, or disobey. And the poor until they act ungrateful or entitled. Many of us are willing to care for the sick—until someone throws up on us. And we welcome the lonely until they get clingy and demanding.

Nevertheless, God calls us to serve those who appear to bring nothing to the table. Matthew 25:40 says, “I tell you the truth when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

In light of this command, we should ask ourselves, “Who is ‘the least of these’ God is calling me to love and serve?”

Maybe it’s a family member, co-worker, neighbor, or church member. It could be a young mom, college student, or struggling teen. Perhaps it’s a lonely friend, grieving widow, or elderly acquaintance.

“Least of these” can be one-time opportunities to do a kind deed, meet a need, or speak an encouraging word. Or they can be longer-term commitments to get involved in someone’s life. Regardless, we should always be ministering to at least one of the “least of these.”

The litmus test is that our commitment is a sacrificial relationship that appears to be lopsided—we’re giving and they’re receiving. 

Here are five reasons to love and serve the “least of these.” 

1. God blesses us when we share generously.

“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38).

2. God will get the glory for our kind deeds.

“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5:16).

3. When we were young believers, others patiently helped us grow.

“We who are strong must be considerate of those who are sensitive about things like this. We must not just please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).

4. Jesus promises eternal reward for those who selflessly serve others. 

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home (Matthew 25:34-35).

5. It makes God happy. 

“And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God” (Hebrews 13:16).

I’ve been a believer for more than thirty years. Sometimes I’ve been self-focused, and other times I’ve been other-focused. It hasn’t taken me long to discover that self-focus is self-limiting. Ministering to others, however, especially when it’s challenging and sacrificial, grows our faith, expands our hearts, and draws others closer to God.

Some of the sick people I’ve ministered to have taught me invaluable lessons about contentment, courage, and faith. More than once I’ve visited someone intending to encourage them and realized that they had encouraged me.

Some of the needy people I’ve befriended purely out of obedience to God’s promptings have become my dearest friends. While the relationships may have started lopsided, as they grew in spiritual maturity, they have loved me loyally and unselfishly.

Some of the spiritually immature people I’ve discipled have challenged me to think through what I believe and defend it. They’ve inspired me with their fledgling faith and reminded me of my responsibility to set a good example.

I always learn something about myself and the Lord when I minister to the “least of these.” Probably the greatest lesson I’ve learned is that, in God’s eyes, I, too, am “the least of these.” He loves me when I’m unlovely, comforts me when I’m sick, and visits me when I’m in a prison of my own making. In every way, he loves me the way he calls me to love others.

So I ask again, who is the “least of these” whom God is calling you to love and serve? If you don’t have someone, pray and ask God to show you who in your circle of influence needs your love and care most. Then reach out – in Jesus’ name.