To Help or Not To Help

helping handI can remember it perfectly. Shawn and I were finishing lunch when he noticed I hadn’t touched half my sandwich. Shawn smiled like it was Christmas morning and declared, “We’ve got lunch for a homeless person!” Shawn lives for times like this. I’m an introvert – they make me sweat.

Just before we reached our destination Shawn spotted him: a lone man slumped over at the end of an alley. Ever the optimist, Shawn was convinced the man was praying for lunch and we were the answer. As I barreled down the alley, trying in vain to keep up, every manner of question and excuse ran through my head:

What choices led to this man’s predicament? Why isn’t he working? Does he deserve help?

Have you ever been there? Scripture is clear about having compassion on the less fortunate but our questions persist. Typically, our questions morph into objections. And, sadly, objections allow us to remain inactive.

I’ve just finished Tim Keller’s excellent Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes us Just. To address these concerns Keller draws on a couple of great preachers from the past: Jonathan Edwards (18th century) and Robert Murray McCheyne (19th century). Here are four common questions/objections and their answers:

Are they really that needy? After all, they have cell phones – they must not really be in need!

Edwards points us to Jesus’ admonition to love your neighbor as yourself (Mk 12:31).[1] We don’t wait until we are in extreme situations to seek help so why should we expect the same for those around us? We need to love them like we love ourselves. To take it further, Edwards reminds us that Christ loved us and walked in our shoes. We should do the same.

I’m not sure about their morals. Should we help them?

Again Edwards is helpful.[2] He points us to Jesus’ love for us when we were far from him. There was nothing particularly deserving in us apart from Christ. Why then should we expect more from others?

They will probably misuse the help!

Here McCheyne cuts right to the point. He reminds us that Jesus knew full well many would misuse his help. I can’t help but to think of all the times I have treated his efforts and gifts poorly. This objection falls apart as well.[3]

Why should I give? My money is my own!

McCheyne is blunt here. Where would we be if Christ said, “My blood is my own, my life is my own?”[4] Aren’t you thankful he didn’t think that way? Why would we?

My excuses for inaction fall apart pretty quickly. I’m thankful guys like Shawn have dragged me down the alley to pray and provide for others. I’m also thankful for faithful ministers, men like Edwards and McCheyne, who cause me to think and don’t allow me to continue passing by opportunities to provide justice and love to those in need.

 

[1] Keller, Timothy, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes us Just (River Head: New York) 2012. Pg 69

[2] Ibid. 70.

[3] Ibid. 108.

[4] Ibid.  108.