There was once a certain wealthy man. At the end of his life, he died and found himself standing before the judgement seat of the Lord. The throne sat empty and the man looked around the room confused, wondering when the Lord would appear.
As he waited a young boy entered the room. He was small of build, his body frail and his eyes sunk deep into his skull. His body was covered with ash and blood. The man felt a rush of pity for the boy and knelt down beside him.
“What happened to you?” the man said.
“There was a war,” the boy replied. “Bombs rained down on our home one night and we were trapped in the rubble. We were trapped there for days. My parents, my brothers and sisters, even my grandparents. I could hear their cries. I even heard my mother try to sing to comfort my younger sister, and then I could hear nothing. The world went dark. And then I was here.”
“But surely you could have fled?” The man said.
“No one would receive us,” The boy replied. “We wanted to leave, but no one would let us in. Why wouldn’t you help us?”
The man felt a wave of guilt and shame wash over him, but seeking to justify himself he stammered for an answer.
“You have to understand,” The man said. “There were complications. Issues of national security and safety. We were afraid. There are violent people in the world.”
The boy said nothing and so the man continued to talk.
“Of course it was terrible what was happening to you, but what could we do? We had to think of ourselves didn’t we? There were risks to our homes, to our country, and to our way of life. It was a frightening and uncertain time for us.”
Again the boy stood silent and so the man stammered on as his eyes began to brim with tears.
“I was a good man,” he said. “I went to church. I paid my tithe. I cared for my family. I even prayed for you and for all of those like you. I prayed that the fighting would stop and you would be safe. I was a good man but I was afraid.”
The boy walked slowly to the man’s side and took his hand, calling him by name. And the man’s eyes were opened and he found himself standing in the presence of the Lord.
“You were blessed in life to be a blessing to others,” the Lord said. “I came to you in my hour of need and you turned me away.”
“But if I had known it was you…” The man cried.
“Did I not tell you where to look for me?” The Lord replied, “Did I not tell you that what you do for the least of your brothers and sisters you do for me? And what you fail to do for them you failed do for me? Didn’t you have my words with you? Why did you not believe them?”
“But Lord you know I was a good man,” the man plead. “You know me. You know that I loved you.”
“I am sorry,” the Lord replied, “I know you not.”