“And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,  I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’” (Matthew 25:40-45).

On a recent Saturday I served with a mobile homeless ministry (Layman’s Lessons) in downtown Nashville. According to Louis, the ministry’s founder, there are approximately 6,000 homeless is this average size city. On any given day only about 10% of those receive a decent meal from a Christian ministry (i.e. Rescue Mission) or from some other government or philanthropic organization. The statistics tell us that over 50 of those will perish during the coming winter months – from November through March. They will expire from alcohol and weather induced hypothermia, untreated illness, and overdoses. No matter what the cause – and Christians should be overwhelmingly convicted – they will be dead and facing their eternal destiny.

Although I have worked with the homeless and poor before and have often seen the street corner beggars as I have trekked into downtown for business or pleasure I, generally speaking, remain isolated (or at least insulated) from them. Such is the case for most of modern Christians in America. Believers in other parts of the world deal with the scenario of homelessness and poverty much more often than we do here in the States. Yet, even in the riches of countries, we have all around us those who are cold, hungry, and in need of physical and emotional treatment. Why are we so detached from them? Is it fear, laziness, selfishness? Or is it a lack of faithfulness to Jesus’ teachings?

John Parnell was the first homeless person that I ever really knew. He was born in one the most impoverished parts of northern Mississippi. He worked as a temporary for the staffing company that I managed. I caught him sleeping in his car early one morning on payday. He had intended to wake before we arrived but I went into the office quite early that day and found his car in the parking lot and him in the back seat. He sheepishly and embarrassingly admitted his circumstance but declared that “he was about to get everything squared away”. And he was. He acknowledged that many personal mistakes had contributed to his circumstances but believed that “God is in the life changing business”.

Later John, due to his excellent performance on various assignments, was named “Temp of the Year” and celebrated a Thanksgiving luncheon with my entire staff. He appreciatively accepted the leftovers calling them “a week’s worth of hearty and healthy eating”. John left our company when he was hired on to a full-time position by the last client that we had assigned him to. But we saw John a few more times.

Over the next few months John made several appearances at our office. First he stopped by to say that he had been promoted to management. He showed us the key to his new office. Later he displayed a different key – one that granted him entrance into his rented apartment. When he finally got a reliable vehicle he sported yet another key and he glowed as he showed it off to the staff. Finally he stopped by to proudly show off the door key to his house – the first home he had ever owned. “All I needed was a chance…I thank you guys for believing in me” he humbly confessed. All he needed was a chance…that thought resonates with me to this very day.

Oh, I know, it’s so easy to think that all homeless people are that way due to poor choices, mental illness, addiction, and willful rebellion. Though that might sometimes be the case we do need to be careful about being so judgmental. Lest we be so presumptuous, Louis (the ministry founder I was working with that cold Saturday) reminded the volunteers that significant Old Testament character David was homeless (see 1 Samuel 18-31). The Bible says that he even ate ashes for bread in order to sustain himself (Psalm 102:9). But later David was given a chance by God and eventually became the greatest king in Israel’s history.

Even more important in David’s legacy is that he was a forefather (Jesus was of the house of David – Luke 2:4) and type or picture of the coming Messiah (Jesus was called the son of David – Matthew 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30,31; 21:9,15; 22:42). That’s quite an accomplishment for a homeless person. Maybe we should see Jesus in all of those that are without. For in ministering to them we are doing it to the Savior Himself. And who but God knows how those given another chance can be used to glorify our Savior. Maybe a little love, caring provision, and one more opportunity will be the key that unlocks the door to a life that points men to the greatest homeless person that ever lived – Jesus (see Matthew 8:20).