Our family is, generally speaking, a compassionate bunch of people. My husband and our sons are stars at it. I call them “Good Samaritans.” They go the extra mile to help people who are in difficult situations. Giving comes naturally to them.
The latest episode of such giving happened just last week when our son was introduced to a homeless man, an acquaintance of his wife when they were young. Our son did what he could. He even took the man into his home for the weekend. Gave him food, a couch to sleep on, and advice as to what to do next. He contacted the man’s family and friends, hospitals, shelters and hotels in the area. But when people take advantage of you and don’t learn from their mistakes, there’s not much permanent good that can be done. The man is sick and in need, but refuses to cooperate with those who can help him the most. How sad. He’s now in a hotel. We’ll see what happens.
It gets confusing sometimes. I see poor people on the street corners begging and I want to help them, but I don’t desire to give them the means to continue on their path of poor choices. I think, “If I could be sure there would be a successful outcome to helping this person, I would do it.” But I don’t believe Jesus had that kind of criteria in mind when he showed compassion. The Good Samaritan in the Bible (Luke 10:25-37) stopped to help a man who was beaten, helpless, and left to die along the roadside. The poor victim couldn’t do anything to help himself. Jesus told the story to challenge people to be compassionate toward such a one. It was in the context of loving God and others with all of our hearts and demonstrating it by our actions.
Paul said, in the famous chapter on love (I Corinthians 13) that even if we give all of our wealth to help the poor and don’t have love, it doesn’t amount to anything good. So I guess the message is that we are to help the destitute out of true compassion and concern. The hard part in our messed up society is to distinguish between those who are really helpless and those who are sort of faking it. Where do I start? Where do I stop? Are my prayers enough?
I obviously can’t help everyone in need, but I can help someone. I pray that I will give generously out of a heart of love for the Lord. I can’t be responsible for the outcome. I won’t have a guarantee that all will turn out well. I can just do what God lays on my heart and leave the results to Him.
What does the love of Christ compel you to do? What will you do to show compassion toward someone? What do you think God expects of us? Lots to think about, right?