Objects of Blessing?

April 12, 2024 • Rev. Rob Fuquay

‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did it to me.’ Matthew 25:40 

This Sunday we continue our Ancestry.UMC series thinking about early Methodists in America and their compassion for the poor. What is poor? I know many people who are well off but say they grew up poor. Rich and poor can be very circumstantial, and the same person can be both! As well, poor can mean a lot of things. There are people very rich in material things but poor in spirit, poor in health, poor in attitude and outlook, or poor in manners (as my mother used to say!). 

Sunday we will consider Jesus’ famous parable of The Sheep and Goats. It’s a Judgment story, as in THE FINAL Judgment. The sheep are the ones who cared for the poor and didn’t know they were caring for Jesus. The goats (not the Greatest Of ALL Time) are the ones who didn’t care for the poor and consequentially missed their opportunity to help Jesus. The point is simple—as you did it to them you did it me, says Jesus. Jesus hides among the poor. Or perhaps it's better to say Jesus is found among the poor. 

Often, we think of “works of mercy” (we’ll learn more about that term Sunday) as extra-credit activity in the Christian life. First, get yourself right with God. Second, read the Bible and pray a lot, go to church, and give enough money to the church and other worthy causes to relieve any guilt that we haven’t done enough. And then, third, for extra credit, do something good for the less fortunate. I’m not criticizing you, me or us. I’m really knocking on the church here. I think the message the church put out to a lot of generations, whether overtly or not, was something like that. The subtle notion here, when it comes to the poor, is that they are objects of our blessing. Helping those in need is about us (the ones with something to give) helping others (those in need of what we have to give) so that we experience some measure of reward. 

But Jesus upends this notion entirely with this story. Jesus is found among the poor. Even better, Jesus is found in the poor themselves! Hold that thought. 

Would you appreciate a blessing from Jesus? I know I would. I spend a lot of my days asking for the blessings I want. I know, my disposition shows here. It's easy for me to de-emphasize the blessings I have. That doesn’t mean I take them for granted. I’m just more occupied with the next thing I really need from Jesus. So, at least for me, yes, I appreciate new blessings from Jesus. How about you? 

Well, if I take Jesus’ words here seriously, then Jesus has given me his address. Where do I find my blessing-giver? Among the poor. Among people, I might be able to help or bless. But here’s the twist, those I might bless are the secret to my blessing! They are people who can bless me. They are not objects of my extra-credit charity. They are people with all the same needs, desires, and hopes I have. They were born out of wombs just like I was. They need to eat, go to the bathroom, and feel love just like me. 

Therefore, let’s take rich and poor out of the equation. Heck, I haven’t met many folks who say, “I’m rich,” anyway. We are all people, and all of us have something to give that can help others. Let’s imagine the poor not just as those we should help but need to help. Because we need their blessing. Jesus is inside them. He is waiting to bless us. 

What if we saw all people, everyone we encounter everyday as someone who has a blessing to give us? The homeless guy on the street as well as the bank president? Perhaps somewhere in Jesus’ parable is the simple idea that we all need one another. What if we saw each person as a source of blessing? 

So go find someone who can bless you today! 

Rev. Rob Fuquay