The Least

by Jeannette Haley

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you,
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,
Ye have done it unto me.”
– Matthew 25:40 

You know, there are those times in your life when you feel a lot like what’s left over after a buffalo stampede. There’s just not much to be found, and what bits and pieces you can manage to find and scrape up and put back together don’t seem to be very important in the scheme of things. You find yourself gazing into the limitless reaches of space, and with King David asking, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him” Psalm 8:4?  Then, if you’re like me, you might consider for awhile the invisible realm, and the worlds within worlds that are still being discovered under powerful microscopes. You think about the deep and wide oceans filled with all kinds of life. You then consider living on a relatively small planet, as planets go, with roughly 7 billion other people, and suddenly, you don’t feel so important. It’s all very humbling, or at least, it should be.

I think one of the wisest things my mother ever said to me when I was growing up was, “You are not the only duck in the pond, you know!” I was stunned. I thought the entire Universe revolved around me. Isaiah 40:22,concerning God, puts it into this perspective, “It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in: That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity.” You know, if God sees us as “grasshoppers,” then perhaps we should re-examine our exalted opinions of ourselves in light of His Word.James 4:6b says, “Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” How we need that grace! Notice, God doesn’t just pour His grace (unmerited favor) out upon everybody, but upon the humble.

Human nature being what it is, however, our natural tendency is to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think (Romans 12:3.) After all, the world views humility as a weakness. “To the strong goes the spoil” and “I am the captain of my fate,” is the philosophy of the world, along with the “self-esteem movement” that has been rammed down our throats. Self-esteem is nothing but pride and love of self, which has nearly shoved “self-respect” and “love for God and others” out of the “picture” all together. Bottom line, we cannot serve two masters—we cannot walk in truth and be politically correct at the same time. Therefore, we have a choice to make: are we willing to become a “nobody” before the Lord, at the foot of His cross, in order to become a “somebody” that He can use in His kingdom?

You see, God does not value what we humans naturally value when it comes to people. We value the biggest, the best and the brightest. We value the strongest, the best looking, and the most successful. We value our heroes, whether they are sports figures, war heroes, movie stars, politicians, or preachers, and we also value what we consider to be the “good” things about ourselves. Now, let’s consider what God values: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit” Psalm 34:18. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise” Psalm 51:17. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” Isaiah 57:15. “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” Isaiah 66:2.

Ah, but we so long to be important in the scheme of things, to be admired by others and smiled upon by God. We want to be significant in our sphere of influence, to be noticed, appreciated, complimented and chief. We crave feeling special, and of great consequence. Let’s face it, given the right opportunity, we humans would love being a “god” of our little worlds, exalted and adored by others who—well—were all somehow “beneath” us.

Jesus’ disciples possessed the same human feelings, problems and objectives that plague each one of us. We read in Scripture where immediately following Jesus’ announcement to His disciples that He would be “delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: And they shall mock him and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again” Mark 10:33-34, that these then insensitive and self-serving disciples argued about which one of them would be greatest in the Kingdom of God. We read how, among other things, Jesus told them, “.  . . whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister [servant]: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many Mark 10:43b-45.” We read in the Gospel of John how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, and told them, “If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” John 13:14, 15, 34. This is what God values, and what is precious and acceptable in His sight.

So, having said all that to hopefully lay the foundation for a right perspective, the question is, who do you think God chooses to use? Do you think He looks for the wisest among us? Perhaps He picks the best-educated, or the “most likely to succeed” person, or maybe the most popular, or good looking. What about you? What is there about you that would cause Jesus to call you to follow Him and be His disciple? Have you ever even thought about that?

Years ago I used to think that God chose me to follow Him and serve Him because I was so special, and besides, I had read the entire Bible through, along with all the annotations, at least once. I had memorized hundreds of Bible verses, and I was in church every time the doors opened. I even went with a friend to people’s homes who had been visitors at our church. I was learning a lot about operating in the gifts, discerning spirits, and deliverance, and prided myself in my gift of hospitality. I was young, energetic, and ready to roll.

Then, one day when reading my Bible, this verse hit me right between the eyes, “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called” 1 Corinthians 1:26. WHAAAAAAAT? How could God ever use me since I considered myself as being “wise?” Go ahead and laugh, but that is where I was at that time. Of course, we know that those who think of themselves as being wise are fools. Thus, there is hope as we shall see. Continuing to the next verse, thankfully we read, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are; That no flesh should glory in his presence” (vss. 27-29.)

The closer you get to the Lord, the more you begin to wonder how God could use any of us, or why He would even want to. The other thing you realize is that ministry is not something anyone should pursue, but rather, Jesus is the One we should seek after. If we pursue ministry as the ultimate goal, then surely we are fueled by our own agendas and self-serving motivations. The end result will be a man-centered, fleshly bunch of malarkey that gets on well with the world and denies the very Christ it purports to serve. Communism declares that the “end justifies the means,” but this is never true in Christianity. “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord” 1 Corinthians 1:30, 31.

          Thus, if you feel like the least of the least, and you love Jesus, then God can use you for His glory. Consider John the Baptist of whom Jesus said, “For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” Luke 7:28. I wonder how many people who are stuck in their religious box have been thrown for a loop because of the fact that John did no mighty miracles as did the other prophets. And, yet, here we have Jesus stating the fact that John was the greatest of the prophets. Why? Because while the Old Testament prophets looked forward to Christ, John stood in the light of Christ, and his goal was two-fold: to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God, and to decrease so that Jesus might increase. Greatness in the Kingdom of God is always about decreasing so that Christ can increase. In other words, God’s servants are not called to positions of such prominence that people look to them instead of to Christ. Therefore, when Jesus said that “he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” He was establishing this principle for His followers.

If one were to travel through the Word of God, much like an archaeologist searching for precious fragments on a dig site, seeking for those people who were “the least of the least” whom God chose to use, it might prove to be a most worthwhile journey. Consider Abraham’s faithful servant whose obedience, courage and faith played such an important role in finding and bringing God’s chosen bride, Rebekah, to Isaac. This servant serves as a type of the Holy Spirit who searches for, and woos the Bride of Christ to her heavenly Bridegroom. Another person who would be thought of as one of the least in any society was Rahab the harlot, who hid the Israeli spies, thus saving not only their lives, but her own life and the lives of her family as well. We know that Rahab is in the lineage of Jesus.

Ruth, the Moabite, is another least likely person. Born into paganism, she married a Hebrew man, but then became a widow. As we follow her story in the Book of Ruth, we discover how God’s mercy lifted this faithful woman, with a heart for Him, out of a life of poverty into a place of protection and plenty for not only her, but her mother-in-law as well. She, too, is in the lineage of both King David and Jesus.

Speaking of King David, he was merely an unknown youth who was occupied with tending sheep out in the countryside. While he was an obedient son, full of courage and good character, there is no indication that he had great personal ambitions to be a national hero. However, God saw his heart, and what a heart it was—a heart after God that God can use.

One of the least of the least that we read about in the Gospels is the poor widow who cast all of her living into the treasury. This story always grips my heart because I have to ask myself if I was in her situation, would I love and trust God enough to give everything I had to Him?  The beautiful thing is, Jesus saw her sacrifice, and if He saw the sacrifice of this poor widow, does He not see our plight, whatever it is, and our faithfulness to Him in the midst of it?

We read in Hebrews 11 of the suffering, torture and martyrdom of those nameless souls “of whom the world was not worthy.” We might think to ourselves that surely there should be some monuments or record of them for posterity, but the Lord who sees the sparrow fall, knows them well, just like He knows you and me.

It may surprise some to know that the disciples were considered to be “the least” and beneath the status of the men of notoriety. Acts 4:13 says, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” What other credentials did they need? Wouldn’t you rather be taught by the Holy Spirit, and known to walk with Jesus, than to have all the “credentials” and “titles” that man can give you? The Apostle Paul was a highly educated man, yet he confessed, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” Philippians 3:4.

These are just a few examples of the “least” in Scripture. I am sure that there must be hundreds, if one were to do a serious study. God even used Ravens to feed Elijah, and I must admit that one of my favorite “least’s” is Balaam’s ass. After all (as I often tell people) if God can use an ass, He can certainly use a woman!

It is my sincere hope and prayer that this short article has been an encouragement to your heart today. Jesus knows you. He knows where you are, and He knows the burdens of your heart. He knows all about the disappointments you have faced, as well as the times you were disappointed in yourself. He wants you to draw near to Him, and He will draw near to you, and touch your life, and make it whole, so that you can serve Him in the faith and simplicity of a child, full of joy, with the hope of glory. Won’t you come to Him now?