A successful man known for his generosity was driving his new car through a poor part of town. A boy tried to flag him down. The man didn’t want to get involved, so he pretended he didn’t see the child. As he slowed for a red traffic light, he heard a loud crash. Someone had thrown a brick at his car, denting the trunk.
The man stopped, jumped out of his car and grabbed the boy that threw the brick. “You juvenile delinquent!” he yelled. “You’ll pay for this or go to jail!”
“I’m sorry, mister,” the boy cried. “My mom’s lying on the floor in our apartment. I think she’s dying. Our phone’s been cut off and I’ve been trying for ten minutes to get someone to stop. I didn’t know what else to do! Take me to jail, but please, call a doctor for my mom first.”
The man was filled with shame. “I’m a doctor,” he said and asked, “Where is she?” The boy took him to his mother and the doctor administered CPR and called an ambulance.
“Will she live?” the boy sobbed. “Yes, son, she will,” the doctor said. “Then it’s worth going to jail. I’m sorry I ruined your car. You can take me in now.”
“You’re not going anywhere,” the doctor said. “It was my fault you had to throw a brick to get my attention.”
The doctor made sure the boy was taken care of, and as he drove home he resolved not to fix the dent. He would keep it as a reminder that not everyone in need has a brick to throw.
What Jesus is telling us to do in the reading from Matthew’s Gospel is similar to the famous Golden Rule- “Do unto others”. A cup of cold water is a gift that everyone can give because it is the smallest of gifts. Even this, the smallest of gifts, is precious to the person receiving it, because sometimes it is the gift of life.
We are to do this for everyone we meet, because the recipient could be an angel, prophet or Jesus in disguise. It can mean providing material support such as food, clothing or shelter. It can also mean accepting the truth of our guest’s message. We must be prepared to pay the costs-financial, personal and danger. It is expensive to provide for living expenses. Our personal space and privacy are invaded. We could be caught in the opposition/persecution that the prophet would face. Jesus even said that hatred and persecution would get so bad that anyone who offered his sent ones a mere cup of cold water would receive a divine reward.
Those who do God’s work can be assured that those who help them will be rewarded. Doing God’s work includes healing and those who are in the health care profession. They often leave personal comforts such as family time to care for the needs of others. When they care for the residents in nursing homes or patients in a hospital, they show the love Jesus showed us when he lived among us. When we serve others, we serve Jesus, just like Jesus and his disciples served others.
We are to show compassion for others by caring for the sick, comforting those who mourn, etc. This is contrary to our “me-first”, selfish culture. It will loosen our hold on our possessions, lives, and so on, but these small beginnings are the seed of a different kind of happiness-the happiness that only the Christian life provides.
Even small gifts can make a big difference. It is a reminder of the old adage that “big things come in small packages”. To offer hospitality, care and compassion, we simply have to bring who we are, what we have, where we are. It requires attention to the person receiving the hospitality. We have to receive the person first before they can receive the benefit of the gift we offer.
To Jesus, hospitality meant acceptance, even those who, in his society and in his day, were deemed to be unacceptable. This is why he put his arms around lepers, ate with tax collectors and sinners, forgave adulterers and broke Sabbath laws. Hospitality was not only important to Jesus, it was at the very heart of being God, and it didn’t make any difference to him where such hospitality took place, or to whom, or on what day.
When it comes to hospitality, we take turns being the host and being the guest. Sometimes we are the ones who simply need the hug or cup of water or kindness. Other times, we are the ones providing the hug or cup of water. The “little ones” Jesus refers to are frequently the scapegoats or victims in our society. They are the powerless, the weak, the hurting, the abused, the abandoned, the elderly or children, and they are often the easiest targets for our wrath. They need the help and compassion that Jesus offers through us. When we help them, we have the power to bring others into a relationship with God, the power to show others God’s love by showing them our love, the power to bring them face to face with God by bringing them face to face with us.
- Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASV
- Exegesis for Matthew 10:40-42. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
- Richard Inness, “Listen to the Whisper”. Retrieved from www.actsweb.org
- Leslie Snyder, “Uncommon Courtesy”. Retrieved from www.crosswalkmail.com
- Jeanne Schuller, “Through the Din Comes a Call”. Retrieved from http://onlineministeries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/062611b.html
- The Rev. Dr. Trace Haythorn, “The Art of Welcome’. Retrieved from www.day1.org
- The Rev. Beth Quick, “The Friendly Church”. Retrieved from www.bethquick.com/sermon6-26-05.htm
- The Rev. Dr. James B. Lemier, “Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost”. Retrieved from www.day1.org
- Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
- The Peoples’ New Testament. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
- The Rev. Dr. James D. Kegel, “Encouragement”.Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
- Dr. Randy L. Hyde, “The Stranger at the Door”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
- Pastor Steve Molin, “Sittin’ on God’s Porch”. Retrieved from www.sermonwriter.org
- Daniel Clendenin, PhD, “A Rabble of Blasphemous Conspirators: Proclamation and Reception of the Early Believers”. Retrieved from www.journeywithjesus.net/index.shtml