Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
If we support prophets and public examples in their work, we share in their reward (v. 41). In Christ’s family, all are equal, no haves versus have-nots, no bluebirds versus buzzards, no high-brows versus low-brows. To break down self-contrived, artificial, rigid barriers between us even more, Jesus said He rewards us for kindnesses shown to all His followers, not only to orators and the prominent.
Matt. 10:42a “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little
ones. . .”
Our Master, Jesus, by His own example and His teachings, taught this world kindness, and made it a cardinal trait of Christianity. His followers are to be good to prophets and the righteous (v. 41), to strangers, for thereby we may unwittingly entertain angels (HB 13:2), to enemies, whom we are commanded to love (MT 5:44) and feed (RM 12:20). Our text teaches we are to be kind to “little ones.”
The phrase is tender, a gentle expression of endearment. The simplest, humblest believer is little in the world’s eyes, but wonderful in Heaven’s esteem.
Our Master exalted leaders, but also cared for helpers, the weak, the outcast, the forsaken. Whom the world views as insignificant nobodies, Jesus views as significant somebodies. When we help forgotten believers, there is little fanfare, no trumpets blare in this world, but King Jesus sees the kindness, and is pleased.
He rewards us when we help the overlooked, those who lack wealth and fame. Therefore, while preparing to achieve something “great” for Jesus someday, let’s begin as young as we can, and as soon as we can, doing “great” things every day to people all around us. How we treat ordinary people, “little ones,” is a good gauge, revealing volumes about ourselves as to what we truly are on the inside.
Overseas in WW II, John Blanchard corresponded with Hollis Maynell. As they began falling in love, John asked for a photo, but she refused, “If you really love me, what I look like doesn’t matter.” When the war ended, they set time and place to meet at Grand Central Station. Hollis said, “I’ll be easy to find. I’ll be wearing a rose.” At the station, John’s eye was arrested by a beautiful, slender, tall, blue-eyed blonde in a green suit, whose provocative smile intimated, “Going my way, sailor?” He started toward her, but suddenly saw a rose on the woman behind her, on a lady older, poorly dressed, and large. The beauty in the green suit was fast slipping away, but John, true to his friendship with Hollis, said to the second lady, “I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, you must be Miss Maynell. I’m so glad you could come to meet me. May I take you to dinner?” She smiled and replied, “I don’t know what this is about, but the young lady in the green suit that just went by begged me to wear this rose. She said if you asked me out to dinner I should tell you she is waiting for you in the restaurant across the street. She said this was some kind of test.” It’s easy to see her logic. The way we treat ordinary people tells what we are. The better we are to them, the better people we are.
The key to living a successful, beautiful Christian life is to focus on others. When our thoughts and concerns center on others, not on ourselves, we succeed.
I have mentioned this before in the context of soul-winning. We do well as long as we concentrate on unbelievers, are concerned for them, pray for them, and are determining how we can best talk to them about Jesus.
Failure comes in that last terrible second, the cowardly, selfish moment when we cease thinking about them, and suddenly worry about us. “What will they think of me? What if I sound stupid? What if they won’t like me any more?”
The instant our thoughts go from them to ourselves, we fail in evangelism. The same is true of kindness and service. As long as we focus on the other person, thinking of their happiness and well-being, beauty will flow from us. The moment we focus on us, our beauty fades to ashes.
This non-inward, outward look is heart and soul of what Jesus came to teach us about human relationships. Selfishness is self-defeating and wrong. To be a Christian means to live outside ourselves, to dwell on the happiness of others.
Jesus’ words and life defined once and for all time the infinite, intrinsic worth of every human being on the planet. This teaching is one of His priceless gifts to our race, as illustrated by a story from one of our sister Missouri cities.
Over a hundred years ago, three children ages ten, seven, and four, arrived in Sedalia, having traveled there alone from Germany. Their parents had come earlier to earn enough to gain passage for the children, who had been left in the care of an aunt. The children, alone, helpless, and unable to speak English, left with only one hope, they were trusting totally in Christian kindness. The aunt gave the children a New Testament and told them to show anyone and everyone who approached them its flyleaf, on which she wrote in English the names of the children and this sentence, “Their father and mother in America are anxiously awaiting their arrival at Sedalia, Missouri.” Then came the irresistible appeal, the sentence that became their help and protection throughout a journey over land and sea of more than four thousand miles. Their sole security was a written quote of Jesus. “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” (MT 25:40). This served as their only safeguard. During the whole trip, people took them under wing, kindnesses were done, money and tickets were not lost, and they reached their parents perfectly safe. Jesus is the greatest thing that ever happened to this cold cruel world.
Matt. 10:42b “. . .a cup of cold water only. . .”
Giving a cup of cold water satisfies a simple, basic necessity of life. Lessening fever and thirst, this kindness is valued in a hot, dry land like Israel.
The admonition is not a justification for stinginess. This deed is rewarded only if the giver has nothing better to offer. But when giving a cup of cold water is appropriate, the best gift we can offer in a given moment, it is rewarded.
The beautiful tenderness in our text has inspired many a lovely tale in lore and literature. In my favorite movie, Ben Hur, a poignant scene is when Ben Hur is being taken away in a chain gang to serve as a slave in a ship’s galley. Dying under the desert sun, he collapses. His life is saved when Jesus gives him a drink. Ben Hur later tries to repay the kindness when Jesus is on His way to Calvary.
In James Russell Lowell’s “The Vision of Sir Launfal,” the hero’s dream in life was to ride faraway in a heroic search for the Holy Grail, but the cup of cold water he gave the leper at his gate suddenly turned into the Holy Grail.
The Church will always need orators to hear, and famous shining examples of holiness to imitate. She also needs ordinary people who will make their homes hospitable, let their hands be serving, and allow their hearts to be loving, to “little ones.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning said, “All service ranks the same with God.”
Though our kindnesses be small, if we can at the time do no more, they are duly noted and accepted by our Lord. No well-timed and suitable kindness is ever too small to be excluded from reward. Jesus notices even the smallest service.