I want you to care about orphans, about the hungry, and about the poor.
And I want you to act. Now.
But I also want you to think deeply about what you do and why you do it. Cures do not involve social tourism, warehoused kids, or one bowl of rice a day. True, New Testament engagement with the least of these means acting intentionally, sacrificially, thoughtfully. It requires long-term commitment.
Jesus always acted with the big picture in mind.
Look at the encounter with the Samaritan woman. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” “Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’” Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Big picture focus here. Jesus was not captured by the myopia of the moment.
Perhaps even more to the point is the story of the rich young ruler. You know the story: A young man comes to Jesus and, sincerely we assume, asks him the secret of eternal life. After Jesus lists the primary commandments he is to observe, he responds, honestly, I think. “All these I have kept,” but he knows this is not enough; he has a good heart. “What else do I lack?” Jesus responds by going to the very heart of the issue. “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Matthew records that the young man walked away sad because the price was just too high for him.
When we look at this passage, we usually focus on the “sell your possessions” part, but that is not what I want you to look at today. Instead, look at the last two words from Jesus: “Follow me.” What if the rich young ruler’s answer had been different? What if he had said, Okay, I’ll do this. Now. Today.?
Did you notice that Jesus was ready to invest himself in the man’s life? Jesus did not say, “Sell everything, give it to the poor, and then go do really good things.” It was “Follow me.” Have you ever thought how much more complicated this would have made Jesus’ life? He would have had another man traveling with his band of disciples–a rich ruler–a guy who probably was not going to fit in well with some fishermen and a handful of pretty rough characters. And Jesus was asking him to travel the countryside, essentially penniless.
This event happened late in Jesus’ ministry. He had already invested much time in discipling his core group. But he invited another? Was he serious?
Absolutely he was. Jesus understood that asking someone to have their heart transformed means we must be willing to commit our hearts to the journey with them.
So you have taken a kid off the streets, given them a bowl of rice and a cup of clean water. Or you’ve hugged the daughter of a prostitute, given her a Bible and told her God loves her. Or perhaps you’ve provided a blanket for the men under the overpass.
Here is the point: Transforming lives takes investment, long-term hard work.
More to come….
The photograph is of Philip Smith, co-founder of Hope Unlimited for Children, who began investing in the children of Brazil in 1991.