Why should we care?
Caring is a provocative topic, and the reason is that we find ourselves wrestling with questions that emerge from the Bible.
These questions provoke thoughts such as: What does God expect from me regarding caring for people? Are we allowed just to turn away from the world’s problems? Does God care about transforming society?
These types of questions are ones that we must learn to struggle through.
Let’s pray before we get into the teaching: Dear Father, thank you so much for your incredible kindness and love for us. I pray that the Word will find good soil in our hearts so that it will germinate and produce good fruit. In Christ’s name, Amen.
I want to set up the Scripture before we dive deeper into it. Jesus is a master storyteller and speaks to His audience about animals. He was talking about how after He is buried and resurrected, He will return and separate all the nations (with nations representing individuals). Some of these nations (people) will go on His left and others on His right.
He said he would separate them like a shepherd separates sheep and goats. Sheep have the instinct to gather together, whereas goats are more independent. Sheep depend upon their shepherd, and goats could care less about their shepherd.
Are you a sheep, or are you a goat?
“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 you 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 the one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ” Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)
Jesus knows how to comfort us lovingly, respectfully and tenderly. He sometimes challenges us on our moral and ethical responsibility to care for others. He is not just talking about caring for strong and secure people, but also the weak, poor and under-resourced.
Is there a hole in our Gospel?
On the topic of why we should care, don’t look for quick answers. Quick answers never change us.
Before you can answer why we should care, there are other questions that come to the surface from the text.
One of these questions is: Is there a hole in our Gospel?
The word Gospel means good news. Jesus was preaching the good news when He identified with the needs of the marginalized, the weak, the suffering and the broken. Gospel doesn’t just mean good news but also glad tidings.
The good news of salvation must influence the flourishing of someone’s entire life, not just spiritual life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. — John 10:10 (NIV)
The good news of Jesus’ Gospel-centric preaching is that He focuses on salvation. Christ washes us free from our sins, and not just our souls are being saved, but our life as well. God is interested in saving your soul, your body and your spirit.
“You cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.” — William Booth (Founder, Salvation Army)
This observation made by William Booth is a biblical one.
The Gospel offers salvation and social uplift of a person’s entire life. When a person comes to know Jesus, not only does Jesus wash them free from sin, but He also changes their mind on how they view life. Their mental life changes, their family life flourishes and every aspect of their life benefits.
The question we need to ask ourselves is, we may be good at soul winning but is that the extent of the Gospel?
The true Gospel has no holes, but our Gospel might. If we teach the good news and don’t demonstrate it through acts of care, our Gospel has a hole in it. Our Gospel has holes in it if we only have faith and don’t have any works. When the Kingdom of
God is preached, souls are saved.
But are the hungry given food?
Are the strangers welcome?
Are the naked clothed?
Are victims defended?
Jesus wants us to preach The Word through our actions, not just words.
“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours. Yours are the eyes through which Christ looks (with) compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do good. Yours are the hands with which He blesses all the world.” — St. Teresa of Avila (16th-Century Spanish Noblewoman)
Is there a hole in me?
It is a human reaction to have empathy and compassion. We should all care, but what happens when you don’t perform compassion toward the weak? What is amiss?
If you seldom feel empathy toward others, why do you feel that way?
“Then He will say to those on His left, ’Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ’Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply ’Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ ” — Matthew 25:41-45 (NIV)
This is heavy stuff. He isn’t saying it’s just the social needs of others you did not meet, but He is talking about something deeper that is going on inside you. When you overlook the weak, the broken and the powerless, then you are not truly converted to being a follower of Christ.
If you were converted, something would go off inside you when you see someone in need of compassion. Compassion is when you feel for and feel with someone.
When you turn your compassion into action, you truly begin to care for others. To care is to take deliberate action to be able to meet the needs of someone else. God has a dream for the weak, the broken and the poor, and we must recognize that it is our job to care.
When you don’t care for another person, you’re saying there is a hole in your heart. You can preach the Gospel, but there are no works. You can talk about Jesus, but you don’t go out and meet the needs of hurting people. There are excuses we make that also deepen this hole. When we say we’re too busy or that we’re too tired, we are feeding indifference.
Costly Excuses for Caring:
1. “I’m busy.”
2. “I’m too tired.”
3. “My own needs are great.”
4. “My gift won’t make a difference.”
5. “It’s not my responsibility.”
If you oppress poor people, you insult the God who made them; but kindness shown to the poor is an act of worship. — Proverbs 14:31 (GNT)
Many of us get caught up in focusing on our own needs, so much so that we can’t see the needs of others.
If we take care of Jesus’ call to care for the least among us, we can learn to truly care by showing real action toward those who are hurting. We will find ourselves making a difference in the world around us. An excuse we often use not to care is thinking that our gift won’t make a difference.
There are so many different needs out there that need to be met by many other gifts. Jesus said that He was sick and we didn’t look after Him.
One of the greatest things we can do is just connect with someone sick. We don’t have to be the doctor, we can just pray with them, and our presence of being there is a true gift to them.
Caring for the poor is lending to the Lord, and you will be well repaid. — Proverbs 19:17 (CEV)
Did you know that God is sympathetic to the poor? He wants us to lend to the poor our money and our time, and He will repay us.
The biggest excuse that will dig you deeper and deeper into the pit of apathy is saying, “that’s not my responsibility.” We push the responsibility onto the government or our neighbors and don’t take action ourselves.
“I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. … I truly believe that when the rich meet the poor, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.” — Shane Claiborne (Christian Activist)
How do I fill the hole?
“Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” — Bob Pierce (Founder, World Vision)
How do you fill the hole? By praying that God will break your heart for the things that break His heart. Pray that prayer over and over again. Let God begin to bother you with the things that bother Him.
How else do we fill the hole? We accept the Gospel as a dual action. God is calling us to serve Him and to serve people. Proof of salvation is that you become the hands and feet of Jesus. If you are just the words of Jesus, you are not the Gospel.
This service you do not only helps the needs of God’s people, but it also brings many more thanks to God. It is proof of your faith. Many people will praise God because you obey the Good News of Christ—the gospel you say you believe—and because you freely share with them and with all others. — 2 Corinthians 9:12-13 (NCV)
When you start living the Gospel, not just by words but in works, others start thanking God and believing in Him.
“The greatness of a man is measured by the way he treats the little man. Compassion for the weak is a sign of greatness.” — Myles Monroe (Christian Minister)
When you help people experience human dignity and value, you come to another level with Christ. God has to stir that inside us because words alone won’t get people’s attention.
“I can’t change the world but I can change the world in me.” — Bono (Singer/Songwriter & Philanthropist)
We are all little people. Our efforts accomplish little compared to the size of the global population, but what can we change? We can change ourselves.
Let’s Pray: Dear Father, break my heart for what breaks yours. Stir up compassion in me. Give me the confidence and boldness to serve you in words and works. In Christ’s name, Amen.