On reading the parable of the sheep and the goats:
Though it is often unconscious, we tend to imagine ourselves taking part in the stories we read. For example, in Lord of the Rings, one may identify more closely with Aragorn, while another relates to Frodo. This perspective colors the way we experience the story.
I have always read this parable as an invocation to show compassion to the poor and hungry. This has been more or less successful at various points in my life. At its worst, if I refuse to follow the greater implications, it may result in my dropping an extra coin in the hat of the neighborhood beggar.
However, my living situation has dramatically shifted the way I read this passage. Most days, I do not know from where my next meal will come. The pep rally for the poor has been transformed into a hymn of thanksgiving.
Instead of a reminder to give when I see those in need, I am made thankful because of those who have given to me. When I was hungry, Martha gave me something to eat. When I was a stranger, Thabiso invited me in.
Additionally, the idea of shelter, accommodation, or dwelling place has begun to resonate strongly with me.
“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” (Psalm 90:11)
“If you make the Most High your dwelling…then no harm will befall you.” (Psalm 91:9)
As I read this last verse, I turned slightly, pivoting on the surprisingly comfortable stump of wood we use as a stool, and looked admiringly upon my home. A different sense of “dwelling” to be sure. But that didn’t quell my sense of satisfaction.