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Sorry: Office of Compassion Closed

Do not withhold good from those who deserve it
when it’s in your power to help them.
If you can help your neighbor now, don’t say,
“Come back tomorrow, and then I’ll help you.” –Proverbs 3:27-28

When I don’t help people, I can elaborate indefinitely yet definitively on why it’s not only the best option, but clearly the only option. When other people don’t help me, well, they’re just jerks.

Funny how we can get it so twisted, right? Justifications for withholding compassion, care, kindness, concern, and love can be plentiful and persuasive. Once we listen once, it’s much easier the next time to need even less persuasion to walk on by. Then after a while, we move to indifference and possibly even disdain for those in need.

The offering plate for that missionary goes by. Ah, my little bit won’t make a difference.

The homeless guy downtown sticks out a hand. He probably won’t even use it for food.

Your coworker in break-room is visibly upset. She won’t want me prying into her business.

closed

We can take a scripture like this and make a rationale that we are instructed to do good to “those who deserve it” and most of the people in your life “just don’t deserve it” for one reason or another. But when the teacher says don’t tell them to come back tomorrow when you can help your neighbor today, I can’t help but think of how we play the game just as the religious leader did in Jesus’ day (Luke 10:25-37). We know what God has said, but we want to know, “just who is my neighbor?”

Through Jesus’ story, we find out: the one in need is your neighbor. God rains on the just and unjust (Matthew 5:45). The ones who curse Him get just as much oxygen on a daily basis as the ones who praise Him. When we understand that everyone who has a need deserves compassion and kindness in God’s view, we have run out of excuses.

I will say from experience, it is painful to care for the fatherless, to feel even a portion of what He feels, to incur the cost and suffer in all the ways that love suffers. I have also suffered from indifference and apathy, from protecting myself and guarding too vigorously what was made to give away. However many years I have left, I want to make the conscious choice to love extravagantly. Somehow in Christ’s love, I want to so abide and come into unity that one who curses and opposes me receives the same love as those who are closest to me and love me back the deepest.

That’s being a disciple of Jesus, that is what He calls us to. It’s an impossible ideal–outside of Him. Clothed in and transformed by Christ, it’s the only option and a living reality.

What stands out as you read these verses? Do you agree or disagree with me? What has been your top excuse to withhold?


Another in a series of monthly posts where I go through Proverbs a verse or two at a time and share the whispers of the Holy Spirit to my heart (click here for more verse by verse posts).

16 Comments

  1. This is why we need the Holy Spirit cause it’s the Holy Spirit that will tell you who to help and how we can help.Yet there are times He tells us not to help so & so simply because he’s trying to protect us from somethings. But what’s important is to stay in Love no matter if He tells you to help or not.

    • You are right. There are times I’ve been told to wait (by God) or to help differently than my initial response would have been and those are good things. Then you get into the area that can be bad where we justify our apathy because the “Spirit didn’t lead” us to do something. I’ve been there too. I’m with you though--real relationship and fellowship with His Spirit brings true wisdom and that’s what we need. Thanks Andrew. Great thoughts.

  2. We’ve all been guilty at one time or another I think. Isn’t it ironic that we begin to believe or think that we have the mind of God to be able to pick and choose who might deserve the good will of our Father who has blessed us for the specific tasks? It’s revolting really. We all stand in need of mercy when we all deserve justice… Our Father demonstrates His love and good will so that we too will spread what belongs to Him to all His children. Tough reminder, but well done and received, Jason.

    • I’m preaching to myself here, Floyd. I’ve tried to point fingers in the past and it always seems to end up like Nathan coming to David, “you are the man!” (and not meant in the good sense of that term). 🙂 It’s certainly a learning process because this world is not set up to give us these reminders. It’s hostile to God so we have to stay connected to Him. Thanks so much.

  3. Excuses for withholding? Way too many.

    Fear
    Busy
    Too focused on self.

    Wait a minute. I think I’ve heard this story before… something about two religious leaders and a samaritan…
    Dusty Rayburn recently posted..Peaceful and QuietMy Profile

    • Yep, that’s the one! Interesting how that story plays out over and over and over again. Jesus really knew what He was talking about. 🙂 Thanks Dusty.

  4. Sometimes my door is closed because I am tired. Tired of abuse. Tired of being used. Tired of being taken advantage of. The hardest part of my job sometimes is saying no to people who want help and we are unable to do so or have taken a stand of “we won’t.” we live in a very economically challenged area and it is not unusual for people to call over and over, although I think most have now gotten the drift we won’t do that. We got burnt the last time and are now gun shy. Wrong or right? I don’t know. Thanks for touching on a sensitive topic.
    Bill recently posted..MessyMy Profile

    • I definitely understand that side of it and there comes a point where you can’t give what you don’t have (emotionally, financially, spiritually, whatever). As far as our church goes, I am thankful we have a wonderful community organization we belong to called Love INC that pools resources between churches and helps people in need connect to what they need. We still help others in different ways, but this cuts down on those abusing the system. Anyway, it’s a tough question that requires God’s wisdom and not ours. Thanks so much, Bill.

  5. What stood out to me was how your post correlates so well with mine today and how I didn’t show understanding, compassion and kindness. How I tried to justify my anger but in the end, God taught me a valuable lesson in humility and patience (and is still teaching me).

    I also share your desire to love extravagantly with whatever time I have left in this earth, but that won’t be possible without Christ. Great post- so glad God is reinforcing my lessons.

    • To love like God loves takes humility and patience, both of which are in pretty short supply in my life without Him. I do love how God confirms these things He’s showing us through others. 🙂 Thanks TC.

      • It is great how He confirms things…He really does long to reveal His will, love, purpose to us IF we will listen.

        • 🙂

  6. I think the one thing that holds me from showing compassion, sometimes, is after I have given help and the person is back in the same mess that helped them get out from. This usually just applies to family members. I am pretty generous and giving person to strangers, especially. I would give my shoes and my shirt off my back. But when It comes to family I hold them at a higher standard. Many times it bother me that people just won’t be accountable no matter how much you give them, help them, counsel them. It’s a big point of frustration for me, and that’s when I hold back.
    Juan Cruz Jr recently posted..Leaders know Email EtiquetteMy Profile

    • That is a tough one, Juan. Those closest to us can hurt us the most. I don’t have any easy answers. I definitely know the pain. Somehow we have to stay connected to how God’s love treats them and see them. That’s the hope that allows transformation. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  7. It’s so easy to get right, and it’s so easy to get wrong. I’ve been on either side of this depending on the day; and it’s not just I give when I’m having a good day and don’t when I’m not. Oddly enough it’s usually the other way around. Usually it’s the other way around, I’ll give more in my bad days maybe in hopes of making the bad day better. Anyway not sure if that makes sense or not. It’s a good challenge and one that I want to get right. I always want to give to those truly in need whether they are deserving or not.
    Philip recently posted..Healing and BoldnessMy Profile

    • Yeah, it makes sense. Human wisdom and our idea of compassion is so different from our Father’s. I want to line up with His heart in everything. Thank you, Philip.

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