MASLOW, THE SHEEP, THE GOATS AND THE FOODBANK
I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (a theory in psychology proposed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”)? It is often represented as a triangle:
I’m not an expert, but Maslow's theory suggests that the most basic level of needs must be met before the individual will strongly desire (or focus motivation upon) the secondary or higher-level needs.
I was recently with a lady who was heavily pregnant and it was clear that she was trying to engage in conversation with me but was distracted. This wasn’t a conversation about faith, but it could easily have been. Suddenly she said to me that she’d been unable to get to the Foodbank that day and she had no food in the house (none at all) and could I take her to the Foodbank in the morning? Having no food falls in the bottom layer of Maslow’s triangle. How can anyone be expected to concentrate when they are hungry and their basic human needs are not being met?
A number of years ago I remember reading the parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 and feeling fairly horrified that I might be a goat! The gist of the parable goes like this:
The sheep and the goats are separated by Jesus. The sheep are blessed by God and given an inheritance. The reason given is: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” The righteous don’t understand; when did they see Jesus in such an unfortunate condition and help Him? He replies, “’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’”
The goats are: “prepared for the devil and his angels.” The reason given is that they had opportunity to minister to the Lord, but they did nothing. The damned ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” Jesus replies, “’I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
My superficial reading of this scripture suggested salvation is the result of good/charitable works. The “sheep” gave food, drink, and clothing to the needy, tended the sick and visited people in prison. The “goats” didn’t. This seemed to result in salvation for the sheep and damnation for the goats.
However, the Bible repeatedly tells us that salvation is by faith through the grace of God and not by our good works. In fact, Jesus Himself makes it clear in the parable of the sheep and the goats that the salvation of the “sheep” is not based on their works, rather their inheritance was theirs “since the creation of the world” (v. 34) - before they were even born!
The good works in this parable are the effects of salvation, not the cause of it. Galatians 5:22 tells us that the fruits of the Spirit are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Good works in a Christian’s life are the direct overflow of these qualities.
We are given many opportunities at St Mary’s and Sale West churches to serve and give. One such opportunity is the outpouring of blessings on others through giving food – as Jesus said to the righteous: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”
There is a box in the foyer at St Mary’s where we collect food each week for the Foodbank. The Foodbank operates out of the Sale West Community Centre on a Tuesday morning. The people who use the Foodbank are made in God’s image just like you or me but they have found themselves in such severe financial difficulty that their daily choices are not about what to have for dinner but whether to have dinner.
Please do give generously: tins (fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, rice pudding, custard), UHT milk, cereal, pasta, rice, jars of sauce, tea, coffee, toiletries, nappies etc.
(Just in case you are worried, the pregnant lady was provided with dinner and a lift to the Foodbank!)