Valuing the Least
“What’s the movie we’re watching, Mrs. V?”
I hesitated giving the title, especially with my teacher friend’s comment ringing in my ears: “You’re showing that? A musical? Good luck!”
Reminding the eight grade students that we’d been studying Romeo and Juliet, I bravely announced, “It’s called West Side Story.”
“Oh, I love that movie! It’s my dad’s all-time favorite. He watches it a lot. I know all the songs!”
I thought to myself: "Really? You know all of the songs. You? One of my biggest discipline challenges? You were the least likely candidate to be my supporter on this. But I’ll take it. And I’ll take your influence on the class to really give this a chance."
I’ve had other unlikely students who have surprised me. One of my least accomplished high school English students, who finally decided he would give his best effort in the last semester of his senior year, announced to me that he was going to go to college. To top it off he planned to major in English and become a teacher! I don’t know what ever materialized with that dream, but at least he was inspired.
There are plenty of least likely people I’ve encountered. My own husband, when I first met him, was dressed in a faded orange sweatshirt, wearing old black-framed glasses with a safety pin holding together one of the hinges. Not the most likely candidate for a future husband. But it worked! I’m also surprised by what people tell me they did in their youth: champion roller skater; award winning equestrian.
Some people in history had the least likely secondary talents. US President William Taft is most recognized for his immense girth. However, on the dance floor, the 6’2”, 350-pound gentleman prided himself on being light on his feet and knowing the latest moves. The women were delighted and eager to be his dance partner.
Sometimes the least likely people become Christians.
And sometimes the least likely person is really God. After all, didn’t Jesus’ neighbors wonder at this? The carpenter’s son? (Matthew 13:55)
We actually use "least" quite often in our interactions with others. It’s frustrating when someone doesn’t want my help, even when I know I can solve the problem. “At least let me try…” Or maybe I’ve wronged someone and am eager to make amends. I beg, “At least let me offer…”
And then there are times I hear someone say, “At least I didn’t… At least it wasn’t…” These are always the beginnings of excuses for falling short.
Much worse is the demanding “The least you can do is…" or "At least you could…” Sometimes it turns out it is the most I can do, despite their expectations.
But there are times when I can’t repay someone in the way I’d like to. Even though I may be embarrassed by their return thanks for my efforts, I softly tell them, “It’s the least I can do.”
Jesus referred to “the least of these” when He spoke of the value of those who have no status, no wealth, no position in society. The least likely to matter. In Matthew 25:40 He tells us to consider our actions when we respond to “the least of these brothers and sisters of mine." When the disciples wondered who was the greatest in His kingdom they certainly weren't expecting the least likely answer... the least of those in the crowd… a child. I’m sure Jesus took her hand in His to reassure the little one that indeed she was of greatest value.
That simple song “Jesus Loves the Little Children” reminds us that they are all precious in His sight. Charles Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Present warned Scrooge that God might consider the poorest of children more valuable than he was.
Yet this world and our experience tell us that value system is different, and we agonize over that reality. Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains wonders who dares to tell a mother with a sick child in her arms that her little one has less value than some other mother’s child. Who are we to make value judgements that affect the lives of those put in our care?
What is the least the Lord expects from me?
When I consider all He has blessed me with… all of the times He’s come to my rescue… all of the comfort and assurance I have, knowing my sins are forgiven and He loves me in spite of who I am and what I do...
When I justify my behavior with “At least it wasn’t…”
When I get mad and frustrated at Him because I didn’t ask Him for the help I needed… before I found myself in trouble….
When I shout out to Him, “At least you could…”
He asks me for only one thing… to believe in Him and His saving grace.
What is the least I can do for Him? Trust Him. Live His love. Turn to Him when the world questions my value.
And when I least expect it... the Lord takes my hand… and steps in with His answers… His plans… His surprises… His forgiveness… His love… His joy!
Leaving my guilt at the cross,