Matthew 25:40 - And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
In this series, those working within health care were asked to consider the words of Matthew 25:40 and then answer: Who are the least of these? How do they impact your ministry?
Raleigh Springs Mall is located on the north side of Memphis. At one time, it was a flourishing bustle of buying and spending, but now all the flagship stores are closed, and a Chuck E. Cheese is the only establishment still in business. During a period of drastic city flooding, this mall became the epicenter of relief for flood victims – providing shelter, food, and clothing for those displaced from their homes. A mall can symbolize prosperity, a middle-class philosophy of life, a place filled with all that a person may need or want, or an entity that can meet needs because of its abundance. What is great about Raleigh Springs is that it became most useful when it was devoid of its middle-class trappings. When it was shutdown, rundown even, it was open to those who had been shut out of their homes, even run out of their lives. When it was full with merchants, would it have been used as a shelter or a food distribution center? Maybe the merchants would have come together to donate goods, to give to those more needy, but when you don’t have a home, what you need is a roof and shelter from the rain. By being emptied of “having,” the mall could be useful in a way that was perhaps more meaningful. By offering its emptiness to those who also found themselves emptied of their normal lives, the mall became full in a way its architects most likely never intended.
Maybe Matthew has a similar idea in mind. It is not that we “know” we are doing good for the “least of these,” but that we live like “the have-nots” and “the haves” are really one-in-the-same; that the “haves” may have dry land, roofs, and walls, but their emptiness, or we may even say poverty, is only of a different kind than the “have-nots.” We recognize that we are all in need and that we need one another, and so, we seek ways to provide and be community to each other, so all may be full.
So I do not work with the least of these – I work with people who fill my empty spaces with their gifts and graces even as I hope to fill theirs with the gifts and graces given to me. We are all rich. We are all poor. May we have the grace to live into both.
Kara Kilpatrick is a Church Health Scholar at the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn.