Have you ever been praised or thanked for doing something that you didn’t think much of, something you didn’t consider particularly important or helpful? In Matthew 25:31-46 we see that the Lord Jesus will give this kind of surprising praise to believers who have survived the Great Tribulation when he returns to the earth to judge it. In fortelling this, he says to them:
“take your inheritance, for I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink… I was sick and you looked after me.”Matthew 25:34-35
They didn’t realise that they had done this for Jesus, but he replied, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” (v. 40)
The more practical acts of service – which God has gifted and empowered his church for – are ways that we can show love to one another.
Perhaps we too see opportunities to help others in various ways, but don’t see these as spiritual activities. Maybe we think of service in the church to be inviting a friend along to an outreach meeting, giving a talk or playing an instrument in the praise band. In reality though, taking care of people’s practical needs is a key part of church life, and one which God values dearly. When we consider the needs of those in our church or our friends and neighbours, there are a range of opportunities for this. We could do some shopping for an elderly person, help them fill out an online form, help a younger person with their homework or their CV, or bring a new game to the youth club. Often practical help can support people’s spiritual development too.
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul uses the analogy of the human body to make clear that although we each have different gifts and different activities in the church, we shouldn’t look down on any of them. Setting out chairs for a church event or preparing the refreshments is no less valuable than someone speaking to preach or teach. The purpose of any gifts that God gives us is that we would use them for the ‘common good’ (1 Cor. 12:4-7). The more practical acts of service – which God has gifted and empowered his church for – are ways that we can show love to one another. This is key because, as Paul goes on to stress, the service we offer in the church will only be of spiritual worth if it is motivated by love (1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Those in Matthew 25 who live through the Tribulation will be commended for the things they do out of love for their brothers and sisters. This should be what drives our service through the present day too. Doing so will have the added benefit of showing to others that we are Jesus’ disciples (John 13:35).
taking care of people’s practical needs is a key part of church life, and one which God values dearly
Let’s commit to looking out for and taking up such opportunities. These helpful activities are often unseen and go unnoticed, so be encouraged if you are already doing these things because they are of very great value to the one who sees in secret (Matthew 6:4).
Ross Osborne, The Church of God in Glasgow