As followers of Christ, we are each called to care for others. What does caring look like? How does caring play out in and through our daily living?
This week we are answering the question: Do we care?
Let’s pray: Dear Father, I am just so confident in you. Thank you for reminding me that you’re the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Please deal with my heart in a unique and tender way so I can become the person you called me to be. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
One of the most prominent themes in the Bible is compassion and caring. I want to unpack some things Jesus talks about on these topics and ask you some questions. As you read, examine your heart for the answers.
Does God expect us to care about people, even people we don’t know?
How do we demonstrate this care?
What responsibility do we have towards people beyond sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Does God even care about transforming society?
Are we given the option of turning away from the world’s problems? Does God allow that? Is the salvation of just our souls enough?
Does God expect more from us?
In the passage below, Jesus is in front of an audience and gets deep with them by saying, “Let me tell you what it will be like at the end of the age when I return.” He said to them that He will bring all the nations together and then separate them into two groups, just like a herdsman does when he is separating goats and sheep. The goat and the sheep may look similar, but they are very different. The sheep depend on their shepherd, but the goats are curious and tend to wander off. In the passage below, He is talking strictly to the sheep.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?” The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)
I’ve been serving the Lord for 40 years, and I can tell you one thing I’ve seen that’s common; God has never allowed me to settle at any particular juncture of growth that has made me think I’ve arrived. He is constantly prodding, prompting, encouraging and challenging me to grow. He wants me to become more like Jesus in my attitude, actions and aspirations.
I believe that He is doing the same for you. The goal of growing to be more like Jesus has us wrestling with the question: Do we care? To really answer that question, we need to ask what it means to care?
In the text, Jesus says caring is taking action. It is to meet the needs of the least among us. Caring is not merely an idea. It is about taking action to meet the needs of those who cannot meet their own needs.
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Matthew 25:35 (NIV)
Jesus was affirming His followers, not based on how much of the Bible they knew or how often they went to church, but He was affirming them on how they met the needs of others. Jesus extended the idea of what it means to care. When He says to care is to take action toward welcoming strangers, He is referring to Himself. He thanked His followers for opening up their lives to Him even though He didn’t look like them.
Jesus associated Himself with being a stranger because being a stranger means you have a deep desire to be welcomed. When you want to belong, but you feel as if you don’t, that does something inside you.
“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”
— Mother Teresa (Founder, Missionaries of Charity)
Why have some stopped caring?
We’re living in a culture where it is almost attractive to have apathy. It is as if the feelings of indifference look like a garment fine enough for a catwalk. The crazy thing is some people sit idly by and whip out their phones to videotape a moral crime, and the reason they post it is not to decry the wrong but to boost their followers.
“Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is.” — Rollo May (American Psychologist)
To avoid the pitfalls of apathy, you must guard your heart because it is the wellspring of compassion. If you are not careful, things can get launched into your heart, producing apathy and cynicism. What is cynicism? It is a sarcastic, jaded and cynical perspective. What makes it dangerous? Often the cynics are correct, and their perspectives are accurate, but their conclusions are destructive.
If you don’t protect your heart, you can be jaded and cynical, producing apathy that will cause you to not care any longer. You cannot fulfill the very calling that Jesus placed on your soul. That calling is to care for the sick, feed the hungry and help minister to those in need.
Another dangerous thing you need to guard your heart against is codependency. This is the formation of an imbalanced relationship. It is where our actions and well-thought intentions produce self-destructive behavior in others. This causes some to have poor mental health. It causes them to get stuck in a cycle of immaturity.
When you are helping someone, and they think they can keep living in their dysfunction, they’re not taking responsibility for themselves. When we see that, we have to back off and stand guard. Otherwise, it produces codependency.
Some people have experienced compassion fatigue. This is a psychological term that describes the condition of emotional and physical exhaustion that leads to the inability to
empathize. It is almost as if we are so used to seeing human depravity that it no longer moves us, which is very dangerous. This can happen to anyone if we are not careful.
We will show mercy to the poor and not miss an opportunity to do acts of kindness for others, for these are the true sacrifices that delight God’s heart. Hebrews 13:16 (TPT)
It is easy to get to the place of not wanting to be bothered by anybody. One of the other things that cause apathy is being a care-a-holic. This is a made-up word by a psychologist to describe a particular symptom. A care-a-holic is someone who has a strong urge to be needed and uses caring and helping in the same way that alcoholics use alcohol to self-medicate.
Sometimes when you find someone that is always caring, they end up giving everything away to their detriment. Why?
It is not because they have a big heart of compassion, but it is because they are so confused about the idea of caring. They express care to deal with their pain.
Jesus doesn’t let any of us “off the hook.” He calls for us all to pick ourselves up and recognize that apathy is not a method by which we can live our Christian lives. The Bible shatters and destroys that kind of thinking.
“Obedience to Christ demands change, the world becomes His world, the poor, the weak and the suffering are men, women and children created in His image…injustice is an affront to His creation; despair, indifference and aimlessness are replaced by hope, responsibility and purpose; and above all selfishness is transformed to love.”
Brian Griffith (Author, Morality and the Market Place)
The value of the Christian faith isn’t saying that it is just good enough for you to know Christ as your savior, but that you have to become the hands and feet of Jesus. Your life must be robust with the fact that if you saw the sick, you would help them. If you saw the hungry, you would feed them. I want you to see that God calls us to believe that coming to know Christ as the Savior is not the end of the road. It is just the beginning. The full Gospel says that we’re saved by grace through faith, and we have works that authenticate our salvation and grace.
How can we care responsibly?
No one wants to be taken advantage of when you are attempting to provide care for another. Jesus has called us to care responsibly.
“When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me.” Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, “When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?” The king will answer “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” Matthew 25:35-40 (CEV)
There is a four-point process to care responsibly when you deal with poor, victimized and under-resourced people. The starting point is caring. Caring is grounded in the common humanity of loving people. It should bother you that people are hungry. It should make you feel a sense of injustice and inequity. Caring is when you empathize with the pain of others.
You haven’t done anything to help yet, but it is on your radar.
Once you start to feel for that person or that group, you must move on to caring for them by rolling up your sleeves and putting your feelings into action. You not only see the needs of others, but you are also willing to do something about them. This type of caring is truly seeing someone and loving your neighbor as yourself. When you’re caring responsibly, it doesn’t just stop at action. It moves onto caregiving.
Caregiving requires competence. It requires skill and training. It is when you are willing to develop more effective and impactful skills. Finally, to care responsibly, you must be receiving. This is when you poll those around you receiving care from you to find out if they genuinely feel cared for. It is when you start inviting dialogue. To care, care for, give care, and receive are four vital components of caring responsibly.
“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt (26th President of the United States)
Let’s pray: Dear Father, help me to care for the needs of others. Help me put my empathy into action and truly start to care for my neighbors. Thank you for giving me the boldness to walk the way you are calling me to. In Christ’s name, Amen.