Matthew 25:35-40 (NIV) “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 ill 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.”
James 1:22 (NIV) “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
How we treat “the least” (Matthew 25:40) must be among the most-quoted values from the Bible. It has entered the consciousness of many cultures and countries, albeit not often with any understanding of the context of Jesus’ words or crediting of Him as the original source. The speech by Hubert Humphrey, U.S. Vice President from 1965 to 1969, is typical. In a speech at the dedication of the Hubert Humphrey in Washington, D.C. on November 1st, 1977, Humphrey famously spoke about the treatment of the weakest members of society as a reflection on the values of its government: “the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” As a sentiment, this caring treatment of “the least” is often expressed approvingly and held up as an instinctive ‘right’ or a ‘self-evident truth.’
But is it more noted for its absence than its presence? Is it more often seen in the grand opening words of reports rather than in budget priorities and verifiable outcomes? Is it more often observed in a partisan or denominational way than as a general truth? As fuel price rises push more families into fuel poverty and as Trussell Trust Foodbanks report giving out 2.1 million food parcels in the UK in the year to April 2022, we don’t need to look far for the hungry and the needy.
In the College, we aren’t only about the words of faith. We are also about the works of faith.