Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” 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.” (Matthew 25:37-40)
We citizens of the United States may certainly disagree on how the country should be managed, and how our tax dollars should be spent, and what priorities should be reflected in the national budget. Our country is organized in a way that encourages checks and balances, that requires at least some give and take, that assumes some compromise with other points of view.
Healthy debate is a strength of our country, and the freedom to disagree is an important right we should cherish.
Similarly, in the church, we do not always have to agree on how the church should be managed, how our tithes and offerings should be spent, what priorities should be reflected in the parish or diocesan budget. The Episcopal Church (to which I belong) is even organized at a national level along the same bicameral lines as the House and Senate. Our structure encourages debate, requires give and take, assumes some compromise with other points of view.
There are some things that we as Christians simply must agree on, some things that are so clear that they really brook no argument.
Caring for the poor, the sick, the naked, the hungry and thirsty, the stranger and the prisoner are right there at the top of the list.
Even speaking in a parable, Jesus’ point is crystal clear — we are to care for the poor because they are members of God’s family. Period. What we do for the poor we do for God. Period.
We are citizens of the United States, it’s true. But we are also (and first) members of God’s kingdom.
How caring for the poor should be managed, how our offerings and tax dollars should be spent, how that care is made a priority in our church’s budget and in the the national budget is open to debate and compromise.
That it must be a priority is clear, at least for us who are members of God’s kingdom.
Collect of the Day
O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (BCP 231)