I saw the play Godspell a week or so ago, and I’ll tell you a couple of things about it. First, I did not know it was the story of the Book of Matthew from the Bible. Second, I will stop picking plays based on the advertising. And last, while I love me some Jesus Christ, Superstar, this was not on the same level at all. It seemed like an expensive college-level production.
With all that said, I thought the way the script went through the book and teachings was pretty awesome. It was like a really cool, interactive teaching session. If I was a religious education instructor or minister, I could learn a lot from the way the Jesus character went about teaching the apostles. It made the Bible clearer to people, and there was definitely a focus in love and help that I think is missing from discourse in this country right now, as the religious right uses this book to proselytize hate.
Anyway, one phrase has been running through the back of my mind since then whenever I see the beggars and homeless around New York:
‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
Since then, it has made me a little less closed off, and a little more generous when giving to people.
To put the whole story in context is important, because I hate when people cherry pick random bible verses for their own crappy purposes. There’s no context, and so the verse can be used to fit anything.
The Book of Matthew
32All the nationse will be gathered in his presence, and he will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will place the sheep at his right hand and the goats at his left.
34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
37“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? 39When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
40“And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters,f you were doing it to me!’
41“Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.g 42For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. 43I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
44“Then they will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?’
45“And he will answer, ‘I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.’
46“And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous will go into eternal life.”
Again, this was done through a cool, interactive-style workshop in the play. And, as someone who isn’t Christian, and will never be Christian because I think it’s just a book that people made up, I don’t like that it’s just about God and eternal damnation and all that crap.
The important part, that part that should resonate is that we should treat everyone well, because what you, personally, do to the lowest and most vulnerable in society is what you also do to all of us. If we can’t take care of the people that need it the most, what are we worth?
If you are reading this as a Christian, then my challenge to you is: what are you doing every day to fulfill what I would consider a Hippie Jesus request?
And, if you’re like me, and not Christian, I think this should still resonate. What are we doing to make our society better with even the smaller interactions?
Because its not that you donate $100 a year to a charity and call it a day. Who you are is made up of those every day interactions. And the least of what you do, in the microcosm, is what you do for all of us.
I’m not worried about being a goat in heaven, but I am more thoughtful about my actions toward people I could otherwise help.psyche