The least of these

Published 1:15 pm Monday, March 18, 2013

By Rev. Chris Surber

Children are shaped by what they experience and observe. If we want the future to be better, we have to invest in children.

Imagine the difference, for example, between a little girl raised in a middle-class suburban home with two loving parents, attending a safe school in a largely crime-free neighborhood and a little boy growing up with one parent in prison and the other addicted to drugs.

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How is their view of the world going to be different as they grow up? The little girl assumes things about the world that the little boy does not. The little girl assumes the world is safe, that her parents exist to protect her, that she is worthy of love, and that when things go wrong she has somewhere to turn for help.

The little boy assumes that since his parents neglect him he is unworthy of love. He shoulders the weight of a painful, dangerous world. He assumes that when things go wrong, as they often do in his life, he can only depend upon himself or, perhaps, the false security of a gang.

These two children, while fictitious in the strictest sense, are not imaginary. In fact, you may already have pictured each of them as a certain race; a certain color? But this isn’t about race. Suffering is abundant with children of every ethnic and social dynamic in our culture and around the world.

Recently one of my children was complaining about the mediocre quality of the food he had been given for dinner. I started in on my typical rant about starving children around the world, and it hit me — there are likely kids going to bed hungry in Suffolk tonight.

Neglected children don’t just live in far off places. They live in our neighborhoods. To our credit, according to Virginia is among the five states with the lowest incidences of childhood food insecurity. On the other hand, the District of Columbia, our neighbor, has the highest levels of childhood food insecurity in the United States, with a shocking 30 percent of children living with food insecurity, which describes a person whose food intake falls below their minimum calorie (energy) requirements.

Childhood poverty and struggle is not a distant problem. It’s our problem. Suffering among the lowest, the littlest — the least of these — in the world and in our society is commonplace. But if we claim Christ, we are commanded to make it our concern.

Speaking to His disciples Jesus said, “For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:42-45 NIV84)

For a follower of Jesus, the question should not be, “What is being done for the least of these?” The question should be, “What am I doing for the least of these?”

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at