I let the man into the merging traffic. I didn’t have to, but I’m trying to be kind today. I wait for the little “thank-you” wave. No wave. Now I’m ticked. I expect thanks when I am kind to someone. When I don’t get it, I’m irritated. I want to be appreciated. Maybe, to be honest, I even choose to be nice just so I can get the appreciation. It makes me feel good.
The problem multiplies when it comes to helping those who are in need. Do I give money to that man who only wants it for alcohol? Would that woman have enough money to feed her kids if she wasn’t buying cigarettes? Couldn’t that family find a better apartment to live in if they got rid of their three dogs and two cats, which they can’t afford to feed anyway? Why should I support their bad habits or foolish choices?
And when they aren’t grateful, well, I’m ticked. It’s how I felt when the homeless woman asked me for a quarter and, when I graciously gave it to her with a smile, she immediately asked for a dollar instead. It makes me think twice (or thrice) about doing it again.
And so this post from Joel Brooks, a pastor in Birmingham, that my husband brought to my attention was important for me to hear:
Help Even the Unrighteous Poor
Missional living beyond feel-good experiences
My office is located in one of the poorer areas in the city of Birmingham, Alabama. Even as I am writing this, outside my window I can see two prostitutes standing across the street outside a hotel and a homeless man pushing a grocery cart full of cans. Confronted with scenes like this on a daily basis has made me think a lot about Jesus’ call to serve the least of these. What should this look like in my life? Over the years, I have far more failures than successes when it comes to reaching out to these people.
It might not be easy, but our call to help the poor is a . . . click here to read the whole post
Inspiration from an Unexpected Place
There are several places in Scripture we could look to see this call, but recently I found it in an unexpected place—the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Currently preaching through Genesis, I was surprised to find God’s heart for the unrighteous poor even in a story full of hellfire and brimstone. . . . click here to read how Sodom and Gomorrah teach us
I have found that helping the unrighteous poor is perhaps also the best way to remind myself of the gospel by which I am saved. I did not receive mercy because I deserved it. Jesus Christ did not give his life for me because I was a good person. No, I was his enemy and full of sin when he died for me. I never did and never will earn his grace. Grace is always unmerited. So when I see how the unrighteous poor respond with bitterness to my acts of kindness, I am reminded of my own spiritual condition. Even now, I often fail to thank God for his continuous and abundant grace towards me. Thank God for the gospel by which I am being saved!
We must see our service to the poor through this gospel lens. Actually, our ability to help those who don’t deserve it is an indicator as to whether or not we have actually received the mercy and grace of God ourselves. As Jesus says in Luke 6:32-33 and 35-36:
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. . . . But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and you reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Will I live mercy and grace as Brooks asks?
- Mercy—God not giving me what I do deserve
- Grace—God giving me what I don’t deserve
Will I choose to love “expecting nothing in return”? Can you?
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