Saturday, February 20, 2010

Christian Charity

I walked outside, carrying a big bag of trash filled with old meat scraps and smelly day-old vegetables, and saw a man pawing through our apartment's trash bins. "Gross," I thought. I gingerly placed my bag among the pile and walked away without giving him another look. As I was nearing my front door, a thought suddenly came to my mind: "What if he's hungry?"

I normally strongly discourage giving homeless people and beggars money, especially since, even if they say it will be to buy them a meal at that Taco Bell across the street, they usually really mean it will buy them some liquor at the 7-11 down the street. But food seems different. As I saw that dirty, old man shifting trash around, looking for anything to recycle or eat, I couldn't help but think, "What if that was me? What if that was my brother or my sister or my child?" Wouldn't I like to know that if, somewhere, somehow, someday someone I loved and cared for was on the street, that someone would care enough to give them a scrap of bread?

It made me think about Christ and His charity towards us. He came and fed the beggars, healed the sick, was a friend to the poor and the sinful, asking nothing in return but loving all anyway. He died for us, asking nothing of us but acceptance and love for the Father and for Him in return. Who are we to say we are better than doing a few of the things that the Son of God did for us?

In Matthew 25, Christ talks about judgment day and Christian charity:

34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 
35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 
36 I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  
38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?  
39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 
40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  
42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 
43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
44 “Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’  
45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

I'm not in any way saying that we should go out and look for people, handing out food left and right. I'm also not saying that our salvation is based on works, and if that if you've ever ignored a hungry person that you'll be rejected by God on judgment day. But we need to not ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit. When we're able to help, when we see a need, strive to be like Christ and feed the "least of these" in the name of love for Christ.

I may never see that man again, and I may never know if he lives past tonight, but what I do know is that as God loves, we should love, and that is all God asks of us.

Matthew 22:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 
38 This is the first and great commandment.  
39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”


Jess(ica) said...

I agree... I prefer to give food than money! One time I gave a homeless guy a box of half eaten wheat thins and left over Mongolian BBQ- he seemed grateful -and if he was hungry, I am sure he appreciated it very much.

kirsten michelle said...

When it comes to the relationship between faith and deeds, I always think of James 2:14-26 since it speaks about it so explicitly. We are called to put our love into action! So much easier said than done.

It is hard to really *see* those Jesus referred to as "the least of these" -- it's easier to turn a blind eye, to ignore their needs and favor our own comfort. Bless you for seeing this man!!