Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Funny Thing

Jesus tells a story about sheep, goats and judgment toward the end of the book of Matthew. It’s a story about two groups of people. Each group say they believe. Now they’re being judged.

It wasn’t a good day for one group.

Basically, the story tells us that Jesus is walking around all the time in a distressing disguise (thumbs up to Mother Theresa). He’s disguised as someone hungry, someone thirsty, someone without clothing, someone sick, and someone in prison.

And for those who notice him, feed him, gave him a drink, clothe him, nurse him and visit him there’s a kingdom waiting for them. And for those who don’t notice and care there’s eternal punishment.

Tough words.

It’s a hard, hard story. In the narrative people argue about the decision reached. “Hey, when did we ever see you hungry, thirsty, naked, sick or imprisoned?” And Jesus basically says “ If you would have opened your eyes for half a minute you would have seen me. Come on there’s people in need all around you and if there aren’t you don’t have to go very far to find someone. You didn’t do. I’m sorry. Some of you are in. The rest of you aren’t.”

This all throws me for a loop. I don’t like it. It puts responsibility on my shoulders. It makes me realize God isn’t messing around. I’ve got to do more than go around singing “This little light of mine …” He’s saying there’s a role He wants me to play and it’s a non-negotiable.

Some people might say. Well, it sounds like God is saying ‘you’ve got to earn your way into heaven.” I don’t think so.

I think we can always hang our hats always on the doctrine of grace and its message of unmerited favor.

The whole counsel of God reminds us, though, that when we belong to Him that people will be able to look at how we act and see someone who cares. Grace filled action accompanies real faith.

I preached all this on Sunday.

Yesterday, I was driving down the highway in the heart of Chicago.. I was late for a meeting. There was car on the side of the road. Abandoned. A quarter mile ahead there were five people walking down the busy road carrying a gas container.

I almost stopped but didn’t. I almost decided to take a 15 minute detour to go back and offer a ride. But I didn’t.

Funny thing. I was rushing to talk with someone about helping those in need.


Don said...

I understand that the world is better when we help those truly in need. But there American society has created many opposing forces.

First, America has become an entitlement society. People have somehow become entitled to have a car, even if they don't know how to change the oil or fill the gas tank. It is one thing for me to have taken care of my (now ex) wife, who apparently could not check the oil or fill the gas tank while we were married. It is another to be responsible for all of the other yokels in the world who can't or won’t learn these basic life skills.

The second issue is America’s loss of individual responsibility. Again, in America, everyone is entitled to a "free" high school education at the public’s expense. I can accept this. Clearly, an educate population is likely to improve the world, which I hope is part of Gods Plan.

But, in America, our high school dropout rate is 35%. What is my responsibility to feed, house, and entertain those dropouts? How do I distinguish between those how have chosen the easy path of living on the public’s dole, and Jesus, walking among us in disguise?

Third, alcohol abuse and illegal drugs are a very real problem in America. I pity those entrapped by drugs. Quite literally, “There, but for the sake of God, go I”. I made a choice decades ago to give up dope before my first child was born. I did not want to be a drug-addled parent. I miss dope. But I did not and still do not want it to be part of my life. I will accept the responsibility to help those who want help getting off drugs. But, I suspect that that is a very small minority of abusers.

Finally, my favorite pet peeve is those people who chose to live 14 feet below sea level in New Orleans, and cry for public assistance when the annual hurricanes take out the levees and flood the city. Or, those people who have beautiful homes along the Mississippi River, Fox River, or Salt Creek. Every ten or fifteen years, a flood comes along and they get public money (aka my money) to repair the damages. Yet, I, being the responsible one, live in a bad neighborhood so I can pay my taxes so they can enjoy waterfront property.

“The government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul”. This is the basis for America’s Democratic Party and the entitlement crisis that we live in.
Tax the top 20% of income earners (aka responsible people), take your own cut to fund the government, pet projects, and a police force to enforce your taxation policies, and then distribute the remaining funds to the lowest 51% of the population so you will get reelected.

I hope you have an easy answer for such complex issues. I want to help those who truly need and want help. But, I do not believe that the entitlement society that we live in is supportive to human growth, for the glory of God. Rather, I believe the entitlement society drags mankind down.

Mike said...

Thanks Don. Here's a couple of thoughts.

1. Err on the side of grace.
2. Stay engaged and involved in the political process. Nothing will change if good people do nothing.
3. Give generously to those ministries/organizations who are rooted in the community and attend to the real needs of people.
4. You'll never be 100% sure of anything especially when it comes to the 'least of these'. I'm sure there are scam artists and people who don't give a rip. It will always be so. Don't let that keep you from using what is obviously a keen mind to discern how you will follow the commands of Jesus.
5. Keep erring on the side of grace.

peg faulmann said...

This comment is actually from Peg, Erv's wife. Re: New Orleans hurricanes. Katrina was the most massive and damaging hurricane that ever hit the city. She did not just hit expensive waterfront properties. Most damage was done to the poor, who did not have the advantage of the waterfront to begin with.
Katrina is a sure sign of what global warming is doing. Storm systems are altered dramatically, causing hurricanes like Katrina that we have not seen.
Read the book "Plan B 3.0" by Lester Brown for more info. And I agree with Mike. Err on the side of grace.