I was an hungered - The union between Christ and his people is the most tender and endearing of all connections. It is represented by the closest unions of which we have knowledge, John 15:4-6; Ephesians 5:23-32; 1 Corinthians 6:15. This is a union - not physical, but moral; a union of feelings, interests, plans, destiny; or, in other words, he and his people have similar feelings, love the same objects, share the same trials, and inherit the same blessedness, John 14:19; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:21; Romans 8:17. Hence, he considers favors shown to his people as shown to himself, and will reward them accordingly, Matthew 10:40, Matthew 10:42. They show attachment to him, and love to his cause. By showing kindness to the poor, the needy, and the sick, they show that they possess his spirit, for he did it when on earth; they evince attachment to him, for he was poor and needy; and they show that they have the proper spirit to outfit them for heaven, 1 John 3:14, 1 John 3:17; James 2:1-5; Mark 9:41.
Was a stranger - The word “stranger” means a foreigner or traveler; in our language, one unknown to us. To receive such to the rites of hospitality was, in Eastern countries, where there were few or no public houses, a great virtue. See Genesis 18:1-8; Hebrews 8:2.
Took me in - Into your house. Received me kindly.
Naked - Poorly clothed. Among the Jews they were called “naked” who were clad in poor raiment, or who had on only the “tunic” or inner garment, without any outer garment. See the Matthew 5:40 note; also Acts 19:16 note; Mark 14:51-52 notes; Job 22:6 note; Isaiah 58:7 note.
I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat - Every thing which is done to a follower of Christ, whether it be good or evil, he considers as done to himself, see Matthew 25:40; Acts 9:4, Acts 9:5; Hebrews 6:10. Of all the fruits of the Spirit, none are mentioned here but those that spring from love, or mercy; because these give men the nearest conformity to God. Jesus had said, Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; and he here shows how this promise shall be fulfilled. The rabbins say: "As often as a poor man presents himself at thy door, the holy blessed God stands at his right hand: if thou give him alms, know that he who stands at his right hand will give thee a reward. But if thou give him not alms, he who stands at his right hand will punish thee." Vaiyikra Rabba, s. 34, fol. 178.
A stranger, and ye took me in - Συνηγαγετε με, ye entertained me: Kypke has fully proved that this is the meaning of the original. Literally, συναγειν signifies to gather together. Strangers are sometimes so destitute as to be ready to perish for lack of food and raiment: a supply of these things keeps their souls and bodies together, which were about to be separated through lack of the necessaries of life. The word may also allude to a provision made for a poor family, which were scattered abroad, perhaps begging their bread, and who by the ministry of benevolent people are collected, relieved, and put in a way of getting their bread. O blessed work! to be the instruments of preserving human life, and bringing comfort and peace into the habitations of the wretched!
While writing this, (Nov. 13, 1798), I hear the bells loudly ringing in commemoration of the birth-day of E. Colson, Esq., a native of this city, (Bristol), who spent a long life and an immense fortune in relieving the miseries of the distressed. His works still praise him in the gates; his name is revered, and his birth-day held sacred, among the inhabitants. Who has heard the bells ring in commemoration of the birth of any deceased hero or king? Of so much more value, in the sight even of the multitude, is a life of public usefulness than one of worldly glory or secular state. But how high must such a person rank in the sight of God, who, when Christ in his representatives was hungry, gave him food; when thirsty, gave him drink; when naked clothed him; when sick and in prison, visited him! Thou blessed of my Father! come. Thou hast been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, and now thou shalt eternally enjoy the true riches.
The Supreme God is represented in the Bhagvat Geeta as addressing mankind, when he had just formed them, thus: "Those who dress their meat but for themselves, eat the bread of sin." Geeta, p. 46.
Practicing Economy in Institutions—Our institutions were established to serve as an effectual means of advancing the work of soul saving. Those connected with them are to study how they can help the institution, not how they can take the most out of the treasury. If they grasp more than is their due, they hinder the cause of God. Let everyone connected with these institutions say, “I will not set my wages at a high figure, because that would rob the treasury, and the proclamation of the message of mercy will be hindered. I must practice economy. Those who are out in the field are doing a work that is as essential as the work that I am doing. I must do all in my power to help them. It is God's means that I am handling, and I will do as Christ would do in my place. I will not spend money for luxuries. I will remember the Lord's workers in mission fields. They have more need of means than I have. In their work they come in contact with much poverty and distress. They must feed the hungry and clothe the naked. I must limit my expenditures, that I may share in their labor of love.”—Manuscript 19, 1903. PM 105.1Read in context »
Christ suffered in the flesh.... He knew what it was to suffer keen pangs of hunger, and He has given special lessons in regard to feeding the hungry and caring for the needy poor, and has declared that in ministering to the needy we are ministering to Himself in the person of His saints. He says, “I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat” (Matthew 25:35). He knew the discomfort and suffering of thirst, and He declared that a cup of cold water given in His name to any of His disciples should not lose its reward.9 TMK 43.3Read in context »
What misery exists in the very heart of our so-called Christian countries! Think of the condition of the poor in our large cities. In these cities there are multitudes of human beings who do not receive as much care and consideration as are given to the brutes. There are thousands of wretched children, ragged and half starved, with vice and depravity written on their faces. Families are herded together in miserable tenements, many of them dark cellars reeking with dampness and filth. Children are born in these terrible places. Infancy and youth behold nothing attractive, nothing of the beauty of natural things that God has created to delight the senses. These children are left to grow up molded and fashioned in character by the low precepts, the wretchedness, and the wicked example around them. They hear the name of God only in profanity. Impure words, the fumes of liquor and tobacco, moral degradation of every kind, meets the eye and perverts the senses. And from these abodes of wretchedness piteous cries for food and clothing are sent out by many who know nothing about prayer. 6T 275.1
By our churches there is a work to be done of which many have little idea, a work as yet almost untouched. “I was an hungered,” Christ says, “and ye gave Me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me: I was sick, and ye visited Me; I was in prison, and ye came unto Me.” Matthew 25:35, 36. Some think that if they give money to this work, it is all they are required to do; but this is an error. Donations of money cannot take the place of personal ministry. It is right to give our means, and many more should do this; but according to their strength and opportunities, personal service is required of all. 6T 275.2
The work of gathering in the needy, the oppressed, the suffering, the destitute, is the very work which every church that believes the truth for this time should long since have been doing. We are to show the tender sympathy of the Samaritan in supplying physical necessities, feeding the hungry, bringing the poor that are cast out to our homes, gathering from God every day grace and strength that will enable us to reach to the very depths of human misery and help those who cannot possibly help themselves. In doing this work we have a favorable opportunity to set forth Christ the crucified One. 6T 276.1Read in context »
Everything savoring of unbecoming familiarity should be discarded by physicians, superintendent, and helpers. There should be no giving of special favors or special attentions to a few, no preferring of one above another. This has been done, and it is displeasing to God. There are worthy persons who are afflicted and suffering, but do not complain, who are in need of special attentions. These men and women are often passed by with indifference and with a hardness of heart that is more like Satan's character than like Christ's, while young, forward misses, who in no way need or deserve favors, receive special attentions. All this neglect is written in the books of heaven. All these things are developing character. MM 146.1
Let all who are connected with the institution as helpers bear in mind the words of Inspiration: “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” When you pass by one who is in need of your sympathy, of your kindly acts, and give them not, but turn to the forward ones and bestow upon them your favors, remember that Jesus is insulted in the person of His afflicted ones. He says, “I was an hungered, and ye gave Me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink: I was ... naked, and ye clothed Me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited Me not.” And when the surprised inquiry comes, When saw we Thee thus? the answer, “Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these [who were afflicted and needed your sympathy], ye did it not to Me.” “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” They that are rich need not your favors, but they that are poor. The bruised and wounded, the lame of the flock, are among us, and these test the character of those who claim to be children of God. MM 146.2Read in context »