I’ve mentioned that the above parable is one of my foundational beliefs, for politics, religion, and life. For me, here’s what that means.
If you don’t know the passage, it’s in Matthew 25:31-46. To paraphrase it, Jesus tells His disciples that, when He is on His throne of glory, He will gather the people and divide them based on how they have treated Him. He gives six conditions: hunger, thirst, a stranger, naked, sick and in prison. And when the people say, “We never did these things,” He tells them that as they have done to the least of His brothers, so they have done to Him. (Note: since every translation I have read of this uses “brothers” for both genders, I am doing so as well.)
In discussing this as political actions that a Christian should take, there are two basic arguments that people have used to state that this doesn’t apply to political actions, just personal ones.
The first argument is the one that I consider the more defensible one: Jesus is talking personal action, not government action. This is true. However, I vote as a Christian, and I believe in voting for policies that I believe are better for all of us, which means voting for policies that support the “least of our brothers”. The Jewish people of the time, the ones that Jesus was preaching to, had a long history that supporting those less fortunate than themselves was a moral and social good. The Romans, the people in charge of the government of the time, the government that we are supposed to read in the Bible as somewhere between callous and evil, on the other hand, viewed helping those less fortunate as generally a bad idea. To me, it makes more sense to those of us trying to follow Jesus’ teachings to support those less fortunate. In addition to being a more Christian thing to do, studies have shown that it costs less to give support up front than to have to deal with the consequences later on.
The second argument is one that I have a great deal of trouble with: that “of my brothers” doesn’t include all of humanity, which is my reading. They limit that group to their fellow Christians, or their fellow countrymen, or those who are part of some group that they belong to. I disagree. Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus makes it clear that we are all in this together, that “neighbor” is to be defined broadly, and that He speaks to everyone. To me, that means that we are to view everyone as our brothers, and to care for all of humanity. Anything else seems wrong to me.
As I stated earlier, in the passage, Jesus identifies six conditions in which He was in need that those who He considered His sheep provided for, and I intend on discussing them in later blog posts.