Welcome to Doctor's Life Support, daily Bible readings for busy doctors...
Inasmuch as ye did it not... ye did it not to me. Matthew 25:45 (AV)
Is it a coincidence that this passage comes immediately after the parable of the servants and the talents? Standing on its own, it paints a terrifying picture of the final judgment and is indeed one of the 'hard sayings' of our Lord. For which of us has not passed by someone in need at some time or other? Could it be, indeed, that this passage is in part supposed to illustrate the misuse of talents given to us for the benefit of our fellow men? If so, the responsibility laid on us as doctors is grave indeed, for we have had 'talents' heaped upon us in the form of our medical training and experience. There is, of course, another side to the parable, for every time we use our talents in the relief of suffering, we are, in a very special sense, 'doing it unto him' -- our Master himself. And it is a thought to comfort as well as challenge that, whether we are tending septic legs in a varicose ulcer clinic, giving comfort for the recently bereaved, seeing patients in prison, putting up drips, giving morphine, inducing anaesthesia, treating the aged or the unwilling, or even caring for the unlovely, we can regard that work as being done to our Lord himself. This thought alone can 'keep us going' when we are tired, irritable or perhaps even disgusted by the work that we have to perform. How grateful a patient can be after a manual disimpaction of the rectum! It may not be blasphemy to think when we are doing such tasks that we are doing them with the care and attention to detail that would be called for if the tasks were being done to our Lord himself.
But what if we have been guilty of standing by on the other side in the presence of need? Surely this is where the gospel comes in! Of course we have to admit that we have sinned (not always easy), but then we have the reassurance of Jesus' own words in other place: 'The man who hears what I have to say and believes in the one who has sent me has eternal life. He does not have to face judgment; he has already passed from death into life' (Jn 5:24 JBP). What does this mean for us? It means surely that we are freed from worry about the past -- Christ has dealt with that through his death on the Cross -- but freed to allow ourselves to be moulded into a new pattern of living -- a pattern of joyful service of our fellow men 'as though he were Christ'.
Teach me my God and King
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as for thee.
All may of thee partake;
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with this tincture, 'For thy sake'
Will not grow bright and clean.
Further reading: Mt 25:14-46.