For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:35-40
I have just finished reading “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, written in 1939. Prior to that book, I read “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson, written in 2014. In this world today…my heart, my eyes, my ears see and sense injustice, inequality, desperation in trying to migrate or to escape across waters and harsh lands, living in war-torn countries, starvation, sex and slave trafficking, and this list goes on and on. I also see the good and the great, but these books have focused my attention on these harder issues.
The first of these books wraps around the issues of migrant farm work back in the Dust Bowl period and the Depression. The misuse of land, bank loans, and then corporations getting the land of small farmers, set these families off their land. When they saw handbills advertising workers were needed in the rich, fertile valleys of California, far too many went out there without enough work for all. Then corruption reared its ugly head all across the state in many forms. The circumstances of it all broke the spirits of many of these people, yet many overcame as best they could to survive.
The second book is about a lawyer who meets prisoners on death row. These men come together when Bryan Stevenson goes to the South for a month-long class while attending Harvard Law School. He meets men who have been locked up in solitary confinement for years upon years. Eventually, the ones in the book are found to be innocent, yet never had the council necessary to have a fair trial. People in authority used their powers unjustly to lock up innocent people to keep the guilty out of prison or to keep their own name from coming under ridicule when they did not arrest a guilty party.
Although one book is fiction, it is based on events over years and of many that actually did occur. It is like a composite of the times. The other is nonfiction. My heart strings have been pulled immensely these weeks. I am sad for the injustice that took place so long ago in many situations, and still takes place to this very day.
Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, to visit prisoners, to welcome a stranger. When we look around, there seems so very much that needs to be done. Overwhelming, indeed. And we often sit still, doing nothing because we don’t know where to begin or it seems like too daunting of a task. Bryan S. thought such thoughts, but he began with one prisoner. Casy, in Steinbeck’s book, stood up for the downtrodden who were being underpaid, overworked, and betrayed because someone else was willing to do their job for less so the wealthy landowners hired the new ones for half the price and forced the others to take that same pay or get out. Tom Joad, a main character, planned to take up that mantle after Casy was killed in trying. Tom was willing to risk it all.
Risking is hard. Yet…can we lift a hand to help another? Can we offer a drink of water? Can we feed the starving? Can we bring Jesus to the hearts of the lost? Will we?
Father, I ask Your forgiveness for all of the open doors I have walked passed, missing the golden moments to offer help. And thank You for giving me an opportunity to feed one from Cuba recently when he asked for money for food. We were just outside a cafe so I invited him in and bought his lunch. He was most grateful. You blessed me, LORD, for this man truly wanted a meal. My cynicism creeps in when so many have a hand out with looks of drug and alcohol abuse. My trust in their request is zero for I judge them and think I know what it is they really want. Guide me to those who You want me to help. I trust in You and You alone. Then I will know. Father, take me by the hand and teach me Your ways that I will see Jesus in these with a need. I don’t want to get to Heaven and find out just how many, many times I have missed Him here on this earth. I know I will have missed many, but I don’t want to add to that number now. I lift this prayer to You in Your Son’s Name. Amen.
Martin Luther King, Jr. photo: https://www.facebook.com/RevivalAmerica
Charles Dickens’ Quote: http://www.verybestquotes.com