My Musings – “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
What indeed? I’ve done it. Maybe you have too. The stranded motorist all alone. Well, who doesn’t have a cell phone these days? They can call someone. It’s a busy road, someone is bound to stop. I’m running late, I can’t be bothered this time, I’ll get the next one. What if it’s a ruse, I could be putting myself in real danger. On the other hand, what if they don’t have a cell phone? Would it be a bother even if I did have the time? What if it’s a not to well-traveled road? What if I don’t stop to help, they could be left in real danger?
How about the shabbily-dressed person on the corner with the crudely lettered sign “any amount will help?” They’re probably running a scam. They’ll probably use it for drugs or alcohol. Why don’t they go out and look for a job? What if they’ve tried it all and just want to feed their family just for this day?
Without getting too political (too late), what about the refugee seeking a better life? They’re probably here for free benefits. They just want to come here and change things to the same as what they left. What if they belong to some sleeper cell? Why don’t they just come here legally? What if they really did flee a life and death situation?
Maybe some of the concerns and objections above are legitimate. After all, there will always be those looking to take advantage. Many of the situations we face will be tough calls. But do we really want to turn a “blind-eye” to those who might be truly in need because we are afraid of what might happen to us or skeptical hat their needs are genuine? While we need to be wise and wary, at the end of the day we are responsible for our hearts and actions and not the other person’s motives.
My Advice – We all know that immediately after the above question “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Isn’t it interesting that the two in the parable most likely to lend a hand did not (maybe they used some of the above rationalizations), and the one least likely to care at all (the “hated” Samaritan) cared enough to act. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV 1984).
Maybe the ones we find in apparently needy situations are our “hated” Samaritans. Should it make a difference? The point of the parable is no. They are just as much our neighbor as the ones we visit with over the white picket fence.
My Musings – We should not be surprised that the world in general finds Christianity foolish. What seems so obvious to followers of Christ is often lost on those who do not. The understanding that Christians have is not due to a superior (or as some might claim inferior) intellect. It is discernment enabled by the Spirit of God that dwells within. We must remember that we were in the same situation as the unsaved at one time. Unable to comprehend what God freely offered. And we never would have understood, much less accepted it if He had not pursued us. People are not badgered, argued or driven into the Kingdom by us. We can only communicate (plant, water and cultivate) the Truth to the lost as best we can. Then we must let the Holy Spirit do His special work of convicting and convincing (harvesting).
My Advice – Show compassion with a passion. After all the “Passion of the Christ” was for everyone who believes and receives.
My Musings – Spent time these past few days with my two older brothers as we helped our 85 year old mother with a garage sale (selling many items that she and my dad had accumulated over 66 years together). We had many visitors to the sale. Some were neighbors, some were dear friends, some were mere acquaintances, most were strangers. They represented different ethnicities and social “classes.” We exchanged pleasantries with all, joked with a few (which garage sale had the best “junk”), had warm conversations with many and prayed with a few. At one point I remarked to one of my brothers “if more people went to garage sales, the word just might be a better place.” What a great time of fellowship with those we knew and those we did not.
As a world becomes more and more polarized, we sometimes lose sight of the fact we all have one Father and Creator – who loves us all. We have one Savior who did not just die for certain ethnicities, social classes or the “deserving” – He died one for all. He will save all who believe and receive.
My Advice – Forgive as He has forgiven you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Give to those in need. Love your neighbor as yourself. Entertain strangers. Do not oppress or mistreat the alien among you (ouch!). Love your enemies (say what?). For “[w]hatever you did [or did not do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did [or did not do] for me.” (Matthew 25:40, NIV 1978). Finally, have a garage sale – just for the fellowship of it all.
My Musings – A wise former pastor of mine (now with the Lord) once said, “when you read the word therefore, you need to see what it’s there for.” Paul had just recounted the life we used to walk (anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language, to name a few), “since [we] have taken off [our] old self with its practices and have put on the new self.” That’s what it’s there for. A change of clothes. From the “filthy rags” mentioned above, to the renewed wardrobe that is “in the image of its Creator” woven out of “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.“
My Advice – We are chosen and dearly loved. “Therefore,” “over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” That’s what we’re here for.
My Musings – To seek first means to give priority (something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives). Immediately prior to this verse, Jesus was talking about the things of this life that people give attention to – food, shelter, clothing. Things that most would consider necessities, although there are still way too many that lack all of these in sufficient quantity (if at all) to not be considered in want. Others have much more than they need. Few are content with what they have. But no matter what category one falls into, Jesus insists that there is something much more important – our relationship with our Creator.
Our life here on earth is fleeting (a mere mist of vapor) and of little consequence when compared to all of eternity before us. But what we do with Christ while here on earth has tremendous consequences in terms of what eternity will be for us. The lack of the so-called necessities of this life will pale in comparison to an eternal separation from God in the torment of Hell (as politically incorrect as it is to even mention such a thing) if we never get our priorities straight while here. Likewise, the accumulation of things in this this life will be soon forgotten if the face of such suffering. Whether a life of abundance or want, all need Christ. If you seek Him, He (and His Kingdom and Righteousness) will be found. In His Kingdom, all these things will be given as well.
My Advice – Seek Him (Christ) while He may be found, because He came to seek (and to save) you. This is not me speaking in arrogance, although many will still believe so. It is me speaking in compassion to those who do not have a relationship with Christ. Because once upon a time, I was there as well.
My Musings – Is it possible for us to cause God to do something against His will? Apparently it is. God “does not willingly bring affliction or grief.” But He does bring it on nonetheless. Why would He do something that He is not willing to do, that He does not have to do? It is motivated by “compassion, so great is His unfailing love.” The Father will discipline the children He loves, in order to bring correction and growth. If there were a gentler, less grief bringing way He would undoubtedly choose that way. But when there is no other way, He is compassionate and loving enough to
permit bring grief our way. When this was not enough, He took it upon Himself, through His only Son. For “it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (Isaiah 53:10)” on our behalf in order to bring salvation to His creation. He was willing to do what He did not willingly want to do (say what?). Now that is love and compassion!
My Advice – We can rest assured, that in all these grief “things,” God will bring about good to those who also love Him and are called by Him (Romans 8:28). Are you feeling “affliction or grief?” Don’t ask why, as in why me? Ask why as in, what correction (repentance) is needed in my life? What do I need to learn from this? What growth is not otherwise possible without this? Don’t let the thing that God did not willingly want to do be wasted. Use it!
My Musings – The context of this verse is the Babylonian captivity that would last seventy years. A captivity brought on by a rebellious and sinful nation. God has always had plans for His people. Good plans. But somehow, sin always seemed to get in the way.
God never intended for mankind to ever have to leave the garden, but sin got in the way. God never intended to have to wipe out mankind (except Noah and his family) by a flood, but sin got in the way. God never intended to have to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but sin got in the way. God never intended to need to send His chosen people into exile, but sin got in the way. God never intended for His creation to result in the crucifixion of His Son, but sin got in the way. Yet despite all this, and more, God continues to have plans for us.
The word “prosper” in today’s text is the translation of the Hebrew word šālōm, a term denoting well-being, wholeness, harmony, and peace. (Martens, E. A., 1995. Jeremiah. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 3, p. 540. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.) It has nothing to do with riches, wealth or treasures. God’s concern goes much deeper (into the soul of mankind – the hope) and much further (into all eternity – the future). It always has.
Before the fall, even before the creation, God knew His plans to prosper those He made in His image would require the ultimate sacrifice on His part. It was not His intention, but it was His plan. His plan not to harm us, resulted in the severest harm to His Son. In the process, He “bankrupted” Heaven in order to prosper us.
My Advice – Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness. You’ll not have to seek any further.