Not long ago, I was pondering the well-known story of separating the sheep and the goats Jesus tells in Matthew 25:31-46. Follow that link to the CEB version of the entire story. Here is a summary: the righteous and the wicked are separated for eternity based on whether or not they feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and those in prison.
This is the “The Least of These” story: in serving (or not) the “least of these,) the King says, the King himself is served (or not).
Here is the question that struck me as I pondered: Does it count when we organize, or pay others, to take care of those in need of food, clothing, welcoming, or a visit, as when we do these things ourselves?
My answer is: I don’t think so. I am not saying that supporting causes that organize to meet needs is wrong, or that God intends to “cast into eternal punishment” those who write checks to support such causes.
I am saying, however, that we miss out when and if we think that me sending someone else to serve on my behalf is the same as me serving. An important part of our serving others is that it involves us with one another to better understand and connect with each other as fellow people-created-in-the-image-of-God.
Writing checks for other people to do the work, on the other hand, enables us to maintain the illusion that those in need are very “other” from ourselves. The more distance between people the easier it is to allow ourselves not to see and treat others as equally fully human.
But that is my answer. I look forward to yours!