"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:34-40.
To be a toiler through patient continuance in well-doing, which calls for self-denying labour, is a glorious work, which Heaven smiles upon. Faithful work is more acceptable to God than the most zealous and thought-to-be holiest worship. It is in working together with Christ that is true worship. Prayers, exhortation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tied on; but fruits that are manifested in good works, in caring for the needy, the fatherless, and widows, are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.
Pure religion and undefiled before the Father is this: "To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." James 1:27. The doing principle is the fruit that Christ requires us to bear; deeds of benevolence, of kind words, of tender regard for the poor, the needy, the afflicted. When hearts sympathise with hearts burdened with discouragement and grief, when the hand dispenses to the needy, when the naked are clothed, the stranger made welcome to a seat at your fireside and to a place in your heart, angels are coming very near, and an answering strain is responded to in heaven. Every act, every deed of justice and mercy and benevolence, makes sweet music ring in heaven. The Father from His throne beholds and numbers them with His most precious treasures. "And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts . . . when I make up my jewels." Malachi 3:17. Every merciful act done to the needy, the suffering, is counted as though it were done to Jesus Himself. When you succour the poor, sympathise with the afflicted and oppressed, and befriend the orphan, you bring yourselves into a closer relationship to Jesus.
"Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
"Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal." Matthew 25:41-46.
Jesus here identifies Himself with His suffering people. It was I who was hungry and thirsty. It was I who was a stranger. It was I who was naked. It was I who was sick. It was I who was in prison. While you were enjoying your food from your bountifully spread tables, I was famishing of hunger in the hovel or street not far from you. When you closed your doors against me, while your well-furnished rooms were unoccupied, I had not where to lay my head. Your wardrobes were filled with an abundant supply of changeable suits of apparel, upon which means had been needlessly squandered, which you might have given to the needy; I was destitute of comfortable apparel. When you were enjoying health, I was sick. Misfortune cast me into prison and bound me with fetters, bowing down my spirit, depriving me of freedom and hope, while you roamed free. What a oneness Jesus here expresses as existing between Himself and His suffering disciples! He makes their case His own. He identifies Himself as being in person the very sufferer. Mark it, selfish Christian! every neglect of yours to the needy poor, the orphan, the fatherless, is a neglect to Jesus in their person.
I know some who make a high profession, but whose hearts are so encased in self-love and selfishness that they cannot appreciate what I am writing. All their lives they have thought and lived only for self. To make a worthy sacrifice to do others good, to disadvantage themselves to advantage others, is out of the question with them. They have not the least idea that God requires it of them. Self is their dear idol. Precious weeks, months, and years of valuable time pass into eternity, but they have no record in heaven of kindly acts, of sacrificing for other's good, of feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, or taking in the stranger. This entertaining strangers at a venture is not agreeable to them. If they knew that all who shared their bounty were worthy, then they might be induced to do something in this direction. But there is virtue in venturing something; perchance we may entertain angels.
There are orphans who can be cared for; but this, some will not venture to undertake; for it brings them more work than they care to do, leaving them but little time for their own pleasure. But when the King shall make investigation, these do-nothing, illiberal, selfish souls will then learn that heaven is for those who have been workers, those who have denied themselves for Christ's sake. No provisions have been made for those who have ever taken such special care in loving and looking out for themselves. The terrible punishment the King threatened those on his left hand, in this case is not because of their great crimes. They are not condemned for the things which they did do, but for that which they did not do. You did not do those things Heaven assigned to you. You pleased yourself, and can take your portion with the self-pleasers.
To my sisters I would say, Be daughters of benevolence. The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost. You may have thought that if you could find a child without fault, you would take it, and care for it; but to perplex your mind with an erring child, to have to instruct it, and to unteach it many things and teach it anew, to teach it self-control, is a work you refuse to undertake. To teach the ignorant, to pity those who have ever been learning evil, and to reform them, is no slight task; but Heaven has placed just such ones in your way. They are blessings in disguise.
Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He made a sacrifice that He might provide a home for pilgrims and strangers in the world seeking for a better country, even an heavenly. Shall those who are subjects of His grace, who are expecting to be heirs of immortality, refuse or even feel reluctant to share their homes with the homeless and needy? Must strangers be refused entrance at the doors of those who are disciples of Jesus because they can claim no acquaintance with any of the inmates? Has the injunction of the apostle no force in this age--"Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares"? Hebrews 13:2.
Our heavenly Father lays blessings disguised in our pathway, which some will not touch for fear they will detract from their enjoyment. Angels are waiting to see if we embrace opportunities within our reach of doing good--waiting to see if we will bless others, that they in turn may bless us. The Lord Himself has made us to differ--some poor, some rich, some afflicted--that all may have an opportunity to develop a character. The poor are purposely permitted of God to be thus, that we might be tested and proved, and develop what is in our hearts.
I have heard many excuse themselves from inviting to their homes and hearts the saints of God. "Why, I am not prepared for them--I have nothing cooked--they must go to some other place." And at that other place there may be some other excuse invented for not receiving those who need their hospitality; and the feelings of the visitors are deeply grieved, and they leave with unpleasant impressions in regard to their hospitality. If you have no bread, sister, imitate the case brought to view in the Bible. Go to your neighbour and say, "Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him." We have not an example of this lack of bread ever being made an excuse to refuse entrance to an applicant.
When Elijah came to the widow of Sarepta, she shared her morsel with the prophet of God, and he wrought a miracle, and caused that through that act of making a home for His servant and sharing her morsel with him, she herself was sustained, and her life and that of her son preserved. Thus will it prove in the case of many, if they do this cheerfully for the glory of God. Others plead their poor health--they would love to do it if they had strength. Such have so long shut themselves up to themselves, and thought so much of their own poor feelings, and talked so much of their sufferings, trials, and afflictions, that it is their present truth. They cannot think of anyone else, however much they may be in need of sympathy and assistance. You who are suffering with poor health, there is a remedy for you. If you clothe the naked, and bring the poor that are cast out to your house, and deal your bread to the hungry, "Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy health shall spring forth speedily." Isaiah 58:8. Doing good is an excellent remedy for disease. Such are invited to bring their prayers to God, and He has pledged Himself to answer them. His soul shall be satisfied in drought, and he "shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not." Verse 11.
Wake up, brethren and sisters. Don't be afraid of good works. Be not weary in well-doing, for you shall reap in due time if you faint not. Do not wait to be told your duty. Open your eyes and see who are around you, and make yourselves acquainted with the helpless, afflicted, and needy. Hide not yourselves from them, and seek not to shut out their needs. Who give the proofs mentioned in James of their possessing pure religion, untainted with any selfishness or corruption? Who are anxious to do all it is in their power to do to aid in the great plan of salvation?
As you regard your eternal interest, arouse yourselves, and begin to sow good seed. That which ye sow shall ye also reap. The harvest is coming--the great reaping time, when we shall reap what we have sown. There will be no failure in the crop. The harvest is sure. Now is the sowing time. Now make efforts to be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate, laying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may lay hold on eternal life. I implore you, my brethren, in every place, rid yourselves of your icy coldness. Encourage in yourselves a love of hospitality, a love to help those who need help.
You may say you have been deceived, bestowing your means upon those unworthy of your charity, and therefore have become discouraged in trying to help the needy. I present Jesus before you. He came to the earth and died to save fallen man. He came to bring salvation to His own nation; but they would not accept Him. They treated His mercy with insult and contempt, and at length they put to death Him who came for the purpose of giving life to them. Did our Lord turn from all the fallen race because of this? If your efforts for good have been unsuccessful ninety-nine times, and you receive only insult, reproach, and hate, if the one-hundredth effort proves a success, and one soul is saved, oh, what a victory is achieved! One soul wrenched from Satan's grasp; one soul you have benefited; one soul encouraged! This will a thousand times pay you for all your efforts. To you Jesus will say, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Should we not gladly do all we can to imitate the life of our divine Lord?
The Review and Herald, April 20, 1886.