The Nicaraguan countryside was dark all around us, but the lights of the hostel courtyard shone brightly. The world was quiet except for our easy conversation and the occasional thump of a bug bumping into a light. Some of us sat in chairs, others swayed gently in hammocks. One of our youngest team members, an eight-year old girl, read out loud from the Gospel of Matthew,
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. … Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
Matthew 25:35-36, 40
She went on to explain how she had seen our team do those very things throughout the week. She remembered how we provided shirts for more than fifty teenagers at the beginning of the week. She recounted how she felt when we delivered basic hygiene supplies and groceries to single moms, all living in homes by a landfill. She recalled our tear-filled prayers for healing, health, and wellness for those moms and their babies.
The warm December Nicaraguan breeze washed over me as I listened.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.
As the words sunk in, I wondered why.
Why does Jesus command us to take care of others?
On the one hand, mission work is about sharing our American abundance. It’s easy for us to take twenty suitcases full of clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine to Nicaragua. Sharing our stuff is good and the gifts we provide can produce a lot of good.
But as I’ve contemplated the why question, I’m not so sure that serving others is really about sharing our stuff or even our time.
I’m beginning to think it isn’t about that at all.
I’m beginning to understand God is present in the powerless.
This is a paradigm shift for me. In most of my favorite Christian songs, the lyrics sing out about God’s power. He’s an awesome God, a king who stands from age to age, the Alpha and Omega, all powerful, and untameable, just to name a few.
And yet, Jesus was born in a barn to an anonymous couple instead of a King and Queen in a stately palace. He invited the powerful to give up power and join him in humble service. (e.g. Luke 18:1-25.) He allowed the powerful of the world to crucify his humanity.
I’m beginning to see that Jesus commanded us to serve “the least of these” because He’s present in the powerless. He invites us to serve the weakest to get in touch with our own weakness.
Mission work isn’t about sharing our stuff or giving our time, it’s about seeing God in the poorest and least powerful people, right where He said he’d be.
What do you think? Do you think of God as all-powerful and, yet, present in the powerless? How have you served “the least of these”? Did you see God in that experience? Tell me about it on Facebook, Twitter, or in an e-mail.