Its only natural that most of us came to the Lord because we have needs. In some way we needed Jesus to help us. Our focus was on ourselves. We were lost or hurting so we came to the Savior. And thats the way it should be. But as we grow in Christ that inward focus turns outward, off of ourselves. Though we never stop coming to Him for our own needs, that compulsive drive to care for myself lessens and a genuine concern for others increases. I find myself loving and caring, noticing needs or people I never noticed before, wanting to do something to help. And Im not responding out of guilt, feeling somehow I should do something. Its real change. My heart is being warmed with new love for others. Im spiritually moving from childhood to adulthood.
In this passage Paul is calling believers in Rome to move into spiritual adulthood, to love one another at a deeper level. With so many in need it was time to share generously and pursue hospitality.
What does Paul say? (Ro 12:12, 13)
Read Daily Bible Study (Sunday-Tuesday)
1) Koinonia: to have in common, to share practical resources (food, clothing, etc.). In the church it came to mean to care for one another like family.
a) O.T. foundations
God has always wanted His people to be generous, to take responsibility for those around them.
Exodus 16:13-18 Manna (omer: 2 qt daily allotment)
Deuteronomy 14:28 Third-year tithe (alien, orphan, widow)
Isaiah 58:6-12 Divide your bread. Generosity releases divine blessing.
b) N.T. examples
The early church was born into an environment of persecution, so it became absolutely vital for them to care for one another.
Acts 2:42, 44, 45 (Jerusalem)
Acts 6:1, 2 (widows)
2 Corinthians 8:1-6 (Macedonia)
2 Corinthians 9:4-14 (Corinth)
Romans 15:25-28 (Rome)
James 2:14-17 (James)
1 John 3:10, 11, 14-18 (John)
2) Hospitality: love of strangers; welcoming non-family members into your home; caring for widows, orphans, the sick and the homeless as well as traveling ministers
Hebrews 10:32-34; 13:1-3 (Rome)
Giving takes wisdom (2Th 3:6-11)
Were reading about people who are impoverished because they are being persecuted for their faith. They are innocent victims desperately in need of help. Yet even in New Testament times there were those who took advantage of the generosity of others. Paul gives us some very clear instructions about this in his letter to the Thessalonians.
It takes great wisdom to care for people in need so that the right people are helped.
Some will redirect your gift and use it for something else.
Some will stop trying to support themselves and let you carry them.
Some are outraged at the injustice of their poverty and feel they deserve to be carried.
Some with chronic addictions can be helped only in very controlled ways.
Its not enough to simply give and then feel no concern about how my gift is used. I must be a good steward and endeavor to see that Gods resources arent wasted. I want every penny to serve the Lord.
Even opening our homes can be dangerous, we might let in someone who is violent or a thief.
There are those who move in and then refuse to leave.
Some believers have been so wounded by bad experiences like this that they pull back, afraid to give again. But none of this means you and I shouldnt care for the poor and pursue hospitality. It means we need to do so wisely.
As each of us grows in Christ caring for the needs of others becomes a normal part of life, because:
1) We are indwelt by love (1Jn 3)
2) We recognize our new spiritual family
3) We have an eternal perspective (Jn 13:1-5)
Our economy seems to be going through a fundamental change. In the past nearly anyone who wanted to work could find work. However, that seems to be changing. And the breakdown of our families through divorce and abandonment makes the problem far worse. So the number of people who are poor through no fault of their own is rising, including within the church. God does provide, but one of the primary ways He does so is through His people. He delights to see us care for those in need. It shows were becoming more like Him.
If everyone will carry some, rather than a few trying to carry all, remarkable change can take place. If we choose to act like family in the midst of hard times we can work against poverty and have fun doing it.
Finding my neighbor
So where do I start? The world is full of needs, how do I know which ones God wants me to care for? Thankfully Jesus gave us a parable that clears up our confusion. Its the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). It all comes down to loving my neighbor as myself, that is caring for the people God brings across my path, those whove been neglected by others, those who are innocent victims. As members of a church we can obey this at two levels:
1) Corporate action: Who is our neighbor?
PNG (orphans, clinics, churches)
2) Individual action: Who is my neighbor?
Who has God put on my heart?
What can I do to help?
The Second Thanksgiving
Peter Marshall and David Manuel, The Light and the Glory, Fleming H. Revell, 1977, pp139, 140, 141-144.
1) Name someone who is your neighbor. What does God want you to do for this person? 2) Isaiah 58 talks about dividing our bread with the poor. What steps have you taken to help the poor? If none, is there a step you might take in the future?