Service to people in need is not first of all some kind of help. The first service is recognition. Those who serve come first to give value to people in need, the marginalized, the displaced.
Giving value is the first service rendered. This is so because to Christian servants, service to those in need is service equal to equal, image of God to image of God. That is what the term “recognition” implies. Servers have come to put value and price on such persons – value: infinite; price: inestimable.
The only measure of value and price is Jesus Christ. He is God’s only pricing mechanism. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore, glorify God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 7:23). And this: “You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
The project that God began in Jesus is, from one perspective, a project of “pricing” and “valuing” Jesus’ fellow humans, especially those rendered worthless by the society, including the religious establishment. Jesus’ first work therefore was not atonement for sin but affirmation of the created value of all whom He served. Jesus’ incarnation – the Word in a human body and besieged by human history – affirmed creation; God was not repudiating His original work. Jesus Christ is proof of that. So, people who think they have reason to disvalue themselves or are devalued by others have been “revalued” by God in Jesus Christ. Their value is inestimable.
Just how valuable such persons are is stated plainly in the parable of judgment found in Matthew 25. When the hungry are given food, the thirsty drink, the stranger welcomed, the naked clothed, the sick cared for, and the prisoners visited, Jesus said that doing such to them was doing the same to Him. He went on to make the contrast: when none of those acts are rendered to the same population, it is the same as not doing it to Him. No higher valuation than that can be put on a person irrespective of their station in life.
Jim Wallis tells the story of Mary Glover, an elderly Pentecostal woman in the Washington, D.C. poor community associated with Sojourners. She was a regular volunteer serving in their food line, herself a recipient of the groceries handed out. Frequently, she prayed before the doors were opened each Saturday morning. The prayer took a form something like this:
“Thank you, Lord, for waking us up this morning! Thank you, Lord, that our walls were not our grave and our bed was not our cooling board. Thank you, Lord! Lord, we know that you’ll be comin’ through this line today, so Lord, help us to treat you well.” 1
Mary had her values straight!
–Thoughts taken from Love INC’s “Meditations on the Core Values” by Dr. John Weborg
1 Jim Wallis, God ’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It (New York: Harper San Francisco, A Division of Harper Collins Publishers, 2005), p. 217.