“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”
Jesus understood the unique pain of incarcerated men and women when he said, “I was in prison and you didn’t visit me” (Matthew 25:43). Life is difficult in prison. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not a grand hotel filled with a huge spectrum of benefits. Rather, it’s a collection of broken people filled with a vast array of personal issues.
Prisoners face a lot of external pressures every day as they live in an atmosphere of violence, negativity, and boredom. It’s not uncommon to be intimidated or assaulted frequently in a prison. But the internal pressures are worse. Many inmates live with high levels of fear, self-loathing, and hopelessness.
Christ loves the prisoner. He is a “friend of sinners” (Matthew 11:19). He says to those who are incarcerated: You matter to me. Your life counts. You were created for a purpose. I love you, and you’re incredibly valuable to me. I can forgive you and heal the big hurts inside of you.
It’s not unusual to see inmates reach out to God within a few days of their arrest and incarceration. Usually they realize they have lost control of their lives and are willing to turn to God. Is it possible that God is asking you to make a difference in the life of an inmate? In a world where people are beat up and put down, God can give you the power to make a difference.
There are a number of ways you can help. Letters and visits are meaningful to inmates. Maybe you and your church can provide Bibles and study materials. Do something special for the inmate’s family. Don’t expect any reward or thanks, other than these words of Jesus:
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: MATTHEW 25:33–43
1. Would you consider contacting a local prison ministry to see how you can care for incarcerated men and women? Who could you ask to join you? What gifts could you use to bless those who are in prison?
2. What are some of the barriers that would keep you from serving an inmate or their family? What Scripture could counteract some of these barriers?
Brian Brglez is an Alliance Chaplain at Stony Mountain Institution, a corrections facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Alliance chaplains are hands-on when it comes to engaging people in need of comfort, love, direction, healing, hope, and encouragement.
Resourcing you for Faith and Hope in Action:
The Angel Tree program
The challenges of a prison sentence don’t stop at the gate. With a heart of compassion and training from Prison Fellowship, you can help ex-prisoners struggling to return to the community as productive citizens, and you can offer hope to families coping with a loved one’s incarceration.
Here is a link if you are interested in finding out more ways to get involved in prison ministry: http://www.prisonfellowship.org/get-involved