As the month of October comes to a close, I’m sure you have visited a pumpkin patch at some point. I’ve spent a lot of time at our church pumpkin patch, and during my time there, I have been paying attention to what people are drawn to when looking for their perfect pumpkin. Some people just want a typical round, orange pumpkin that can be easily carved. Others are looking for something unique – whether it’s a certain size, shape, or color. And still, others are more concerned with how much the pumpkin costs, so they are just trying to find one that fits in the budget. People are drawn to a wide array of pumpkin characteristics, but there is one thing nobody wants. And that is a rotten pumpkin.
Rotten pumpkins are inevitable. If they get cracked or bruised, or even if they have just been in the patch for awhile, they are going to rot. They get soft and gooey and smelly and start attracting bugs. I don’t think I’ve ever known someone to actually look for a rotten pumpkin. In fact, people tend to avoid them. There was a woman at our pumpkin patch last week who asked me where the newest pumpkins were, because she wanted to avoid purchasing a pumpkin that wouldn’t last. We keep our eyes peeled for the new, the sturdy, the beautiful, and the unique. We avoid the broken and bruised and rotten.
Practically speaking, I get it. Nobody wants to pay for a pumpkin that is rotting. It can’t be carved, or cooked, or set out on display. To pay for a rotten pumpkin would be a poor investment. There isn’t much value there. And so the rotten pumpkins are literally cast aside, thrown into a trailer with other rotten pumpkins where no one will notice them.
But here’s the thing: I’ve noticed that, for me, this goes beyond the pumpkin patch. I’ve noticed that in life, I am drawn to the same types of things – the strong, the beautiful, the unique, the best. It is easy for me to overlook or even avoid something, or someone, that could be considered rotten, or broken, or messy. And yet as followers of Jesus, we are called to do what He did. We are called to seek out and pay attention to the least of these. Not because we are better or have it all together – we’re not and we don’t. But because we see value in looking past the bright and shiny, choosing, instead, to focus on the dull and beat-up. Because unlike a rotten pumpkin, there is value there.
Time and time again in Scripture, we find Jesus spending time with and paying attention to people who usually weren’t given the time of day. These people were considered done for and were essentially the shunned in society - lepers, beggars, cripples, thieves, prostitutes, and tax collectors. And later in Scripture, James calls us to take care of the widows and orphans – people who would be easily forgotten. We are called to pay attention to those who have been cast aside. And generally speaking, I find that easy to get on board with. But it’s much easier said than done, because truthfully, I’m not always drawn to those types of people or situations.
We don’t always see the need.
In my last post, I talked about how our God is a God who sees. And if we are going to reflect God’s heart, then we need to be people who see, too.
We need to be people who look beyond what is comfortable and normal, in order to see and hold the hurting, to see and support the struggling, to see and lift up the broken. We need to see past our self-interest and convenience, and come close to the rotten and messy. It’s time to see and seek out the needs of the least of these.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40