Just returned from church, Applegate Christian Fellowship, http://www.applegatefellowship.org/ , where I heard a most profound teaching from Matthew 25. The most intriguing part of Pastor Jon Courson’s, http://joncourson.com/ , teaching came when he reached the section of scripture that addresses the sheep and the goats. Jesus said,
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“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, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
Many interpret this passage to mean that we should give to the indigent. However, pastor Jon believes that the idea here is that we should give to each other. Not that we should ignore giving to the indigent. In Mike Yankoski’s excellent book, Under the Overpass, http://www.undertheoverpass.com/uop/home.php , Mike and a friend spend five months on the street, homeless, in six U.S. cities. By the end of his adventure Yankoski is filled with compassion for the people on the street, however, even he says that we should use great discretion in our giving, avoiding cash, and offering food. And where is the emphasis in Jesus’ teachings? Did He not say, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” John 13:34 and “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” and “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” John 15:12 and “These things I command you, that ye love one another.” John 15:17
Leadership Take-away: Lead with love. Upon examination of Jesus’ commandment it seems pretty clear what we are to do. In these difficult economic times some of us are really hurting, and some of us still have some ability to help. No Christian should go without during this trying economic season. If you can help, love your brother by giving what you can. And show some initiative, ask your church leadership who is hurting. Most people in your church family aren’t going to approach you with their hand out. Help them find work if you can, offer to pay a bill, or invite their family over for a meal.
Yes we should, according to the leading of the Holy Spirit and with discernment, help those in need on the street, but let’s heed the commandment of Jesus first, “…love one another.” John 15:17