Remembering ‘the Least of These’

“And [God] will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'”

Matthew 25:40

Everywhere I turn today, there seems to be another image or story of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some giving information, others inciting fear; some encouraging others, and still others executing judgement. We are bombarded by this wave of information, be it good or bad, continuously. Something I haven’t really heard much about, is privilege.

I’ve had so many turn their noses up at me for talking about this, or shutting me down with arguments and projected frustrations–and that’s okay. When things are uncomfortable for us, especially during trying times, we lash out to protect our own sanity. I’m guilty of this, too, all too often. It’s hard to listen to opposing views. It’s hard for me to listen to anything, really, that might (in my perception) threaten the way that I think or live in the world. I hate change. Yet, things need to be addressed and looked at honestly–and this is a human privilege that we all execute. However, there is another form of privilege that I see so prevalently in my community.

The people I serve live in poverty. Many are migrants and immigrants who work in agriculture (a huge industry in SouthWest Florida). These are people who are considered essential–waking up before the sun every day, working until the sun disappears, all to allow us access to food and beverages on our tables. These people, my people, are still largely invisible, however.

So many of us are working from home where we continue to get our normal paychecks. We still have our health insurance. Many health insurance providers have even waived charges for services related to COVID-19, including my own insurance. But there are others beneath the surface of this pandemic. Families with one financial provider, who may not be documented, waking up every day to go to work in the fields or in construction–putting their lives and health, as well as the lives and health of their families at risk. This stress is enough to break a person, but add it on to the stress of fearing deportation, working almost non-stop and still not being able to provide enough for your families, and fearing any illness that may mean the accumulation of medical bills–that’s, at the very least, a psychological death sentence.

Jesus speaks of these people–the poor, the lonely, the outcast of society. He speaks of giving them food, and drink, and simply his presence, and he asks us to do the same. Not only does he bring our attention to this, but he tells us that whatever we do, or do not do, for “the least of these [my] brothers, you [do] to me.” Jesus invites us not to forget the marginalized, but to build them up! To keep them before our eyes! Jesus asks us to share our resources, our presence, and heart space with them, because in loving our neighbor we are loving God.

I invite you to join me in these questions: What can I do to provide for these, our brothers and sisters? How can I stand with them, safely and healthily, and help their cross not to be too heavy? How can I be a minister of Christ’s presence in the midst of fear and anxiety, and how can I see the face of God in those society pushes to the sides and judges as a burden?

Jesus said whatever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do to him. If we believe that, and if we claimed to be his people, how are we treating Jesus right now?

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