“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Matthew 25:35,36
I was reading this passage recently, and being one of those widely recognized pieces of scripture I started anticipating each element of the text and saying it in my head in the rhythmic way in which it is typically recited. There is the hungry, thirsty, stranger, the sick, and then the one in prison. Prison. I hadn’t stopped to consider the prisoner’s condition in relation to the others.
The first four conditions seem to be basic needs, urgent needs, the kind of needs that most humans can easily relate to and for which most humans are more quick to respond. The prisoner’s condition, however is not a situation that most humans have experienced, at least not in a literal sense. And although a prisoner may also have all these unmet basic needs (depending on when or where they were or are in prison), because they are in prison they are less likely to be given much thought. They can easily be forgotten, overlooked, or purposely ignored. What I found so enduring about these words from our God is that He has not overlooked, forgotten, forsaken those in prison. Despite the circumstances for which someone is placed in prison, He shows compassion and mercy on them and gives them the same consideration as those who are physically in want. He very specifically includes them with others who are in a desperate state.
I can only imagine how much this would mean to someone in prison, to be specifically remembered by God. The world may have shunned them for what they’ve done, but God has not. He knows each by name; He knows where they came from; and He knows what they can become. He loves them. He loves them so much that He tells us that whatever we do for the least of these, it is as if we are doing it for God Himself. This is so precious!
“How good, and kind, and tender You are. Thank you Father for Your mercy, grace and unconditional love. You are ….[more than I can describe at this moment.] Amen”