When you give to someone that is not in need, There is usually an agenda. It might be small or innocent like making yourself feel good, getting on their good side, or getting the attention of others. Of course it could also be more malevolent. It could be to sway decisions, get something in return, or to prop yourself up in more sinister ways.
When you do not give to someone in need, a basic humanitarian transaction is denied. The Bible outlines this in Matthew 25:
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’”Matthew 25: 35-36
While it may not be an exhaustive list, it was important enough to spell out 4 times in that chapter. Those that Jesus would vouch for honored others as He defined, and those who Jesus claimed He did not know ignored the needs of others. He didn’t say, I wanted to play Nintendo and you didn’t share. I wanted to supersize and you gave me the small. I wanted to travel and you stayed home. I asked for paper and you gave me plastic. Those aren’t really needs.
He talked about things that make us people. The basic physical necessities and a few things that might not seem to fit. “Visited in prison”. “Welcomed as a stranger”. When all of the rest of those can be life or death, how do these two fit in?
First, I think it gives insight into how much God cares for and loves us. He came into this world as a human and allowed himself to be sacrificed for us. He isn’t going to ask us to do something He isn’t willing to do Himself. He was tempted, hungry, alone, sad, neglected, and homeless. He asks us to care about people because He cares about people.
He isn’t trying to be a government over us. He isn’t limited to absolutes. He isn’t content to measure out specific portions to meet our bodily needs, He tends to our soul. Loneliness can be devastating. Solitude, desperation and imprisonment can be epically harsh. Jesus is saying, if you care about me… you care about the people that I love. Guess who that is? Us!!! You and me!
He cares about us. His commands are to take care of each other because He loves us and wants to see our needs met… all of our needs. And make sure you understand that visitation… is a NEED. Compassion is a need. It’s even a need for the criminals. If we aren’t in there meeting the needs of the convict, are we responding to Jesus favorably?
If we give to no one, we are giving to ourselves. It may mask itself in different ways. Wasting money, greed, hoarding. Ultimately, we give to who we care about. Notice this passage doesn’t mention money? It’s about time, commitment, integrity.
If your grandmother called and asked you for help in using the new TV remote, would you get out your checkbook? It’s amazing how many needs we try to cure with money. Over time it has created the adverse effect of not wanting to help because we don’t feel we can financially support new ministries. Is this how we think of grandma? A burden not worth our time because it will eventually cost us?
I hope we all would be excited at the opportunity to help her get her stories working on the picture box (that is old people talk for watching TV). Often, the call to missionary work isn’t an attempt at your bank account. It’s an invitation to live out, first hand, seeing Jesus, embodied in humanity, and needing food, water, shelter, and love.
Visitation isn’t about upgrading the church van, having to buy extra meals, or budgeting for expense reports… it’s about tending to the souls in this world. And, in many cases, the only cost is our time managed by our hearts.
When we make time for God on Sundays and neglect everyone else throughout the week, Matthew 25 claims Jesus will not know us in the end. Some people have the opposite problem. They are honestly good people who love others and cherish the ideology of helping each other out. They are found in soup kitchens, housing projects, and clothing drives.
They visit hospitals and bring gifts to assisted living homes. But they don’t know God. They never step foot in a church and wouldn’t know what to do with a Bible. This group has solved the equation without knowing the question. Christians tend to struggle to answer while knowing the question. So which is it? When do we give? What do we give? To whom do we give?
Jesus answered this in a very unique way. He endured. Nails, thorns, blasphemy, insults, spit in the face, beatings, lies, corruption, agendas, thirst, hunger, greed… He endured. When it came to what He wanted to accomplish, it seemed, to Him at least, to be simple. “forgive them”. All of them.
I’m going to climb on this cross and give up everything I have. I will die… for them. All of them. I will give up everything for everyone. I will take on their sins and pay for them with the ultimate cost. I will give freely of all my blood to cover all their sins.
And when they see me embodied by a poor and lonely soul, what will be a fair response? 10%? A private prayer later? Maybe a few moments just to say Hi? Nothing? “Whatever you did to the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25: 40 and again 46). What would you like to do for Jesus today? How can you say thank you? What percentage will you muster for the Man that gave you 100?