Who Are “The Least of These”?

When Barack Obama was asked at the Saddleback Forum what he considered to be his greatest moral failure, he included America in his reply,  We still don’t abide by that basic precept of Matthew — whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me,  referring to a verse in the Bible recorded in Matthew 25.


Mr. Obama, do you realize “the least of these” is not Matthew’s precept?  It is Jesus Christ’s.  And since Jesus concluded the Olivet discourse with an admonishment to care for the least of these, it begs the question…Who ARE the least of these?


America has long sought to address this question.  Ask a hundred different people to define the least of these, you’ll get a hundred different responses…the persecuted church, victims of war, the poor, hungry, homeless, unemployed, disabled, elderly, mentally ill, terminally ill, uneducated, imprisoned, widows, minorities, those who are struggling financially, someone who cannot afford a college education or a home, a car, a cell phone? 


When Obama elaborated who he thinks the least of these are, he continued, “That basic principle applies to poverty. It applies to racism and sexism.  It applies to not thinking about providing ladders of opportunity for people to get into the middle class.”  Somehow, I don’t think Jesus was talking about ladders of opportunity for entrance to the middle class.  But if we concede that He might have been referring to people in poverty, then who gets to define poverty?  Is poverty delineated by American standards?  Or is it characterized by the world’s standards?


My 13 year old son & I had been in China less than 24 hours when he asked me this question, “Mom, are we filthy stinkin’ rich?”  My initial thought, “of course not”, had almost crossed my lips before I considered the squalor my son was seeing all around us.  My reply quickly changed to, “Yes, we are.  And so is everyone else in America compared to this.”  Most of us are not wealthy but we have more than we need compared to people of third world countries. 


Wes Stafford, President of Compassion International said it best, “The opposite of poverty is not wealth.  The opposite of poverty is enough.”  Enough food that you don’t have to go to bed hungry every night.  Enough shelter that you don’t have to be exposed to the elements.  Enough love that you realize that you are made in the image of God.   By those standards, America is the wealthiest nation on the earth.


With hundreds of social programs in place…covering everything from public health, hunger, homelessness, substance abuse rehab, tuition assistance, prisoner re-entry to society…this country has a plethora of resources to address the needs of practically anyone’s definition of the least of these.  Based on this assessment, I would surmise that it would be very difficult to assume that the least of these applies to any resident of America.


But what if Jesus wasn’t talking about mere poverty as we know it? Or what if NONE of the people groups already mentioned are the real least of these? 


As we speculate on who are the least of these consider this question, what group of people in this nation has fewer rights than animals on the endangered species list?  Who are the most vulnerable, not just in this country but around the world? 


In my humble opinion, whoever else the least of these includes, it surely must take into account the unborn.   Over 40 million babies have been slaughtered in this country since Roe v. Wade became the law of the land.  Mr. Obama stated in the Saddleback Forum that “a lot of evil has been perpetrated in the name of doing good.”  Unless we speak up for them, the unborn have no voice to protest evil & the violence perpetrated against them in the name of personal choice.


In my home state of Colorado there is a ballot initiative to define when someone becomes a person.  When Obama was asked the question by Rick Warren, “at what point does a baby get human rights?”, he responded, “answering that question with specificity is, uh, is above my pay grade”.  When asked if he had ever voted to limit or reduce abortions, Obama did not answer.  Small wonder he skirted the issue.  The church where Obama attended services for nearly 2 decades operates Christ Hospital in Chicago, a medical facility that allows for the practice of babies born with disabilities to die of starvation & neglect.  Physically imperfect babies who survive abortion attempts are left exposed to the elements, to die alone.  I defy anyone to argue that this practice is not evil. 


I would submit that the debate to define the least of these will rage on for decades to come.  It may very well include issues of poverty, racism, sexism.  But to overlook the unborn is to invoke the wrath of a God of justice who will not hold us unaccountable. Jesus said, “WOE unto the world because of offenses…woe to that man by whom offenses come.” {Matthew 18:7}


Whoever wins today’s election needs to know that the issue of protecting the unborn is not going to go away.  Today, Norma McCorvey, the woman who was “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade is making an impassioned appeal to hold our next President of the United States accountible for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. 


She is asking all of us who care about the least of these to join her.










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DiAnna Steele

Child of God, Follower of Jesus, Sister in Christ, Friend to the lost...

2 thoughts on “Who Are “The Least of These”?”

  1. Awesome! Thank you for standing up for the least of these.

    I heard a comment– If we were to place all the babies lost to abortion and put each of them in a 4 foot coffin in a cemetery, the cemetery would be 100 square miles in size.

    My heart hurts for these babies. My heart hurts for the people of 2/3 of the world living in extreme poverty.

    Grace and Peace

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