The Least of These - Who is My Neighbour?
William shared a couple of weeks back that the two things that are of highest importance to the church right now is what are we doing about the youth and what are we doing about the poor.
I want to talk about the latter today. What are we doing about the poor? Let me ask you; what are you doing about the poor?
This is one of those questions that make us uncomfortable because it challenges us in a place where we simply don’t like being challenged.
Most of us are quite happy being challenged on personal holiness or trusting in God; but being challenged on the issue of poverty that is a different kettle of fish.
This is because most of us have this discomforting feeling that we should be doing something or more. But at the same time we know that this will inconvenience us etc.
One of the great challenges of preaching this kind of topic is that I am still grappling with it within my own heart! I Am caught between the two realities: I must be doing more, but the task is so big I have no idea where to start or how to be effective.
In saying this:
Did you know that South Africa’s richest people are rated as some of the most generous philanthropists in the world. As a nation we are rated as the 69th most generous country in the world.
We are rated as such because we generally give we are generally involved in causes and we are somewhat willing to help out a stranger.
As a culture we are quite generous and as a church I feel that is true as well. We are a generous church. I need you to hear that this morning.
But I do feel that we need to be doing more. Why? Because Jesus calls us to do more. In Matthew
25:31-46 Jesus talks about The Sheep and the Goats. The Sheep are those who are blessed by the King and who will share in His eternal goodness and inheritance.
What is interesting about who will share in the eternal inheritance and who will not is as Jesus Puts it:
34 “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.35For 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,36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV)
At the core of our faith is looking after those who are least. In the mind of Christ it is inseparable to be a follower of Him and to have concern for those who are in need.
Now looking after the poor won't get you to heaven. Only faith in Jesus will get you to heaven. We are saved by faith from first to last. But it seems that once saved, once you are a new creation you care for those less fortunate.
As one man put it; When the church is in unity and there is deep concern for the poor it seems that Jesus is there.
In the words of Christ when we care to those with nothing it is as if we care for Christ Himself.
It is love for Christ and his love for us that compels us.
Many of us would ask where do we start and that is why I want to look at Luke 10:25-46 this morning. Would you turn there please?
We commonly know this story of the Good Samaritan. What I want you to do is to look out for the word “good” in the actual story. besides your headings in the Bible you will not find it. We will look at why now.
"25On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The question is asked; How good is good enough? Jesus answers
26 “What is written in the Law?”he replied. “How do you read it?”
I love How Jesus both addresses the question and the motive behind the question. Do what it says; but let me ask you How do you interpret what is said.
Basically He is telling the teacher of the Law God has told you what to do so do it; but let me ask you how do you interpret what God tells you to do.
It amazes me how often people know what is right to do but they seek ways to justify not doing it.
27He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
28 “You have answered correctly,”Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Love God Love people this is what it all comes down to.
It is the simple truth of what God asks us to do. Love Him love others. That is the whole of the Law. That is all that is required. The question that needs to be asked and is asked by the teacher of the Law; what does that look like; How far do I have to stretch this love?
29But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
I want to ask us this morning; what does Love God love people really look like?
Well love always entail actions. We cannot love in word alone.
And so when The teacher of the Law tells Jesus what the Law says he knows that love is the defining characteristic of godliness. But like most of us we want to know how far must that love go; who do I define as someone to love. Surely not the Roman (would have been the thought of the teacher) and maybe for you it is; “surely not a hobo, or a drug addict, or my boss?”
The call of God is for us to love! What does that love look like? Well let me put it in this way think of a family member that you truly love (a child or a parent) and let me ask what would you not do for them? Generally we would go to any length to help them out and to support them and to lift them up. Because we love them!
I want to suggest that is what God is calling us to do. You might say that that is impossible; we simply cannot do that! And you are right, But God calls us to do things that are impossible for the flesh and so He gives us his Holy Spirit to empower us to do more than is humanly possible!
Remember Christ did in us what is humanly impossible, for the disciples said who can be saved. Jesus answered with man it is impossible but for God all things are possible. We Believe Jesus died for us on the cross to take away or sins and deal with our guilt which is impossible for us to deal with. But the cross accomplished the impossible.
God loves us now we can do the impossible and truly love others.
Let's ask who is our neighbour? And what does it look like to really love them?
30In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.31A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”37The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
What is significant is that Jesus never calls the samaritan good; we have subsequently. Jesus called him simply a samaritan. A better way of putting this would a despised Samaritan; for the Jews hated the Samaritans.
In fact, in their oral Law it is written it is better to eat the flesh of pigs than to eat with a Samaritan. Recognizing that to eat pig was against the written Law and so would be to defile themselves.
They hated the Samaritans Yet Jesus uses one despised to show love in action to one who would have definitely not been one of his people.
We see from the story:
Love is for ALL people!
Love is action
Love is for all people:
The Samaritan risked himself to care for one who was not his people. I will be honest with you it is easier to care and love someone I know. Someone who is unlike me, who doesn’t share my views etc that is more difficult.
But we have to ask when we see people in need; are they not also made in the image of God? Do they not also deserving of simple love?
The call of God on this church is not to make a club; but to make a place where people can come together and learn how to love so that we can truly love the whole world! We are called to love the whole world! We do this because we learn that God really loves us! Loves us enough to send Jesus to the cross so that we can be saved.
Love is action:
Jesus illustrates what loving a neighbour actually is, and it is action. The samaritan stopped, and actually did something. A lot of our loving is somewhat sentimental. We love in word but the actions are simply not there.
Now in saying this I recognise the difficulty of what I am saying. The need is much greater than our ability but let that not be an excuse to do nothing. We help who we can when we can is all we are called to do.
I love the fact that this church helps out when it can with what it can in terms of community projects (like refilwe; or harvest aid), I love the fact that this church helps out when it can with what it can with people in need in the church.
In fact that is why I tithe it teaches me that what I have is not trully mine. Once a month when I receive my salary I give a portion to God saying thank you for the blessings you have given me.
This teaches me two things: what I have is a gift. I can get by on less that I think I need. It forces me to confront my own tendency of I want more.
Now in saying all this
The desire is not to be perfect but to love people enough to do something. Love is not so much about ticking all the boxes and making sure you’re perfect. Love is motive, love is not how people see you but about what is happening in your heart!
And if you love people you will do what you can with what you have.
The simple call of loving is a call of giving of yourself for the sake of others. The Samaritan gives of his time, his effort, he goes out of his way to care for this hurt man and finally covers the bill.
This is call of those loved by God.
We see this as a great act of goodness. However, Jesus never states so, He simply says “go and do likewise.”
This is what is expected from us; We are to care for others, because essentially all humans are worthy of care.
When we are confronted by the love of Christ I our lives we are compelled to love others with the same love. This love costs. It cost Jesus his life. It costs us. Sometimes our time our money or effort.
This is very difficult message to hear this morning, so I want to take it from a principle to make it something practical but more importantly do-able for all of here this morning:
So What Can I Do?
I want to give us all some implementable things we can all do to just start loving our world:
a.) Treat people as people (or as you would like to in similar circumstances)
It is when we start seeing everyone as we would ourselves that this becomes less about doing something out of guilt and becomes motivated by love; which is more pure and more effective.
b.) Do what you can with when you can
I want to make this absolutely clear we will not fix all the problems around us; but we can start. We can do what we can with what we have and that is enough.
It is when we do what we can with what we have that God adds His help to it and truly blesses the world we live in.
c.) Make a plan to help
If we fail to plan we plan to fail is the old adage. And if do not create the capacity to help others we simply will never be in a place to do it. Why not save R100 a month to be available to use when there is a need for help.
Plan to help others and you will be amazed at how much it becomes a way of your life.
d.) Create space to help
We all recognise that we are all too busy and too stressed and where can I find the time etc. Well maybe you don’t have the time because you are not creating the time to do anything. When we plan we are able to create spaces for holiday gym etc. So create space in your life so that you are able to help.
What it all comes down to is:
Is your heart in the right place?
We will not help everyone but we can help someone and that someone is made in the image of God and so is loved.
The samaritan was an example of what is expected of those who have received everything as a free gift from their God. We are to give freely as was given to us.
Let us see the world out there as we would like to be seen, lets make space, make a plan and do what we can with what we have and see where God lead us.
The amazing thing is that when we commit ourselves to caring for those less fortunate than us we find Jesus with us.