40 “And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)
By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”
Several years ago I was driving to a dental appointment. It was a drizzly, rainy day and the streets were very slick. As I was driving, I came upon a little old man who was driving his vehicle at about one-half the speed of the surrounding traffic. Without warning he did something inexplicable. For no reason (that I could see) he slammed on his brakes and came to a complete stop. Fortunately for me, I was watching closely and had time to step on the brake pedal. I skidded a bit but managed not to hit the back of the old man’s car.
Directly behind me there was a teen-aged girl driving a late-model sports car. She was talking on her cell phone. Because she was following close behind me, she had to slam on her brakes also. She skidded a few feet and then whipped her vehicle over into the lane parallel to my car. Thinking I was the one who’d slammed on my brakes for no good reason, she screamed something out of her car window to me. And then she did one thing more: She made an obscene gesture at me. (Now, since I’m a man of the cloth and this is a family-oriented column, I will not go into detail about what gesture the young lady made in my general vicinity. However, I will tell you that it did involve “a bird”. And it was not the “bluebird of happiness” nor the “dove of peace.”) And then a look of horror crossed her face as she realized that I was one of her schoolteachers….
I suppose the young girl must have told her story to some other kids because, by the time I got to work the next day, the story had spread throughout the campus. Another teacher told her, “You’ve really cooked your goose this time. You’re going to flunk because you yelled at your teacher. And you’re going to Hell because you “flipped off” a preacher!”
Now, let me make it clear, I do not tell this story to condemn this young lady. I would hate to stand before the Judgment Throne and defend some of the things I did when I was 16. (To be perfectly honest, I’d hate to have to explain some of the ways I behave every day!) But, instead I relate the tale to bring up some questions. Is showing disrespect for a preacher the worse thing we can do? Is it a greater sin to “flip off” a pastor than just a regular, average Joe?
When compared to the conventional wisdom of this world, the answer given in Scriptures is a bit surprising. In Matthew chapter 25, Jesus tells a parable about the Day of Judgment, in which He separates the sheep from the goats. The eternal destiny of all will be based on how they treated Him in this life. The folks in the parable question if they’ve ever seen the Lord Jesus during their lifetime. Then Jesus tells them that whenever “you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” So, the Lord is interested in how we treat everybody, not just His “paid workers”.
Furthermore, in the hierarchy of His Kingdom, it’s not the preachers who are at the top of the “importance chart”. Instead, Jesus says that the most important members of the Kingdom are the little children. Jesus gives a solemn warning to anyone who would do anything that would cause a child to stumble in his faith. In Luke’s gospel He says, “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.” (Luke 17:2)
Years passed since that rainy day when my student’s temper flared. The day after the incident the girl came to my office and apologized to me, and now when I run into her I always greet her by saying, “Oh, look! Here comes my ‘little bird’!” We have a good laugh over the matter, but we are always reminded of an important lesson: “What matters the most is how we treat “The Least.”
Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 19) and Seth (age 16) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where we are finally enjoying the cool rains of Autumn after a hot, dry, summer.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.