A book, “The Hole in the Gospel,” by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision has prompted me to write this story.  (The direct quotes from the book or The Bible will be written in italics.)  My own words will be written in bold.

I am on my knees, struggling with these questions – “Am I willing to be open to God’s will for my life?” and “What does God expect of me?”

From the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Then he will say to those on his left, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,  for I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

They also will answer, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  (vv. 31-46)

I have to admit to you that I have read the book of Matthew many times, and this particular passage never hit me like the ton of bricks that is knocking me off my feet now.  I believe in Jesus; I believe that He died for all of my sins.  I’ve been taught that’s enough for my entry ticket into heaven.  I’ve been taught that good works won’t get me into heaven.  I’ve also been taught thatfaith without works is dead.”  (James 2:26)

How do I reconcile all of this?

From “The Hole in the Gospel” – “God has clear expectations for those who choose to follow Him.  But I want to be clear that this does not mean we are saved by piling up enough good works to satisfy God.  No, it means that any genuine and authentic commitment to Christ will be accompanied by demonstrable evidence of a transformed life.”

 “I don’t want to suggest that all true followers of Christ must forsake everything to bring comfort and justice to the poor.  I only propose that a genuine concern for the least of these that finds tangible expression must be woven into the pattern of their lives and faith….Even Jesus did not spend every waking hour helping the poor.”

Luke 4:18 says that He came to preach good news to the poor.  We learn that Christ’s criterion for determining the authenticity of someone’s profession to follow Him is whether or not he or she tangibly cared for those in need…There is no whole gospel without compassion and justice shown to the poor.  It’s that simple.”

How have I missed something so simple and profound?  If I believe that the Bible is the inspired, Living Word of God, how can I justify picking and choosing the passages or scriptures that feel comfortable to me?   Doesn’t the Bible, in James 1:27, tell me to look after widows and orphans?

The Bible for Dummies:  In a sweeping simplification of thousands of years of Jewish teaching, Jesus summed up God’s law in a way that anyone could understand.  He replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind….and Love your neighbor as yourself.”  (Matthew 22: 34-40)

So who is my neighbor?  Is it the person who lives upstairs or next door?  Or does it include people who live thousands of miles away or in foreign countries?  I think, from God’s view, our neighbor is any human being created by Him.

This is where I get overwhelmed.  How can I love everyone?  I look away from people standing on street corners with a cardboard sign or people sitting on a sidewalk with a cup, begging for money.  There are just too many of them!  And we’ve all heard those stories about people who pretend to be poor and are making hundreds of dollars a day by playing upon people’s sympathies…

I remember a time that I saw a woman standing on a street corner, in the freezing rain and snow, with only a lightweight jacket.  She was obviously sick, and tears were streaming down her face.  I knew she wasn’t pretending.  I gave her all the cash I had in my purse, and restrained myself from putting her in my car.  I just didn’t know what I’d do with her…  I am haunted by my memory of that woman.  As I write this, I am ashamed that I didn’t at least get her out of the cold for a little while and listen to her story.  I know that I did a good thing by giving her money, but was that enough?

I spent a year in impoverished, primitive mainland China.  I fell in love with those people who welcomed me so openly.  I taught them about Jesus and faith.  I was obedient to God and glorified Him with my life that year in China because I was sold out for Him.  But was that enough?

I heard about a woman who lost her young husband unexpectedly, and I gave her money that I could have spent on paying off a bill or rent.  But was that enough?

I have been sending checks to a poor family in Honduras every month, for about 15 years now.  But is that enough?

This is my heartfelt prayer – “Dear Heavenly Father, please show me what You want me to do.  You have given me these questions and this burden for a reason.   Reveal to me how such a flawed human with so many health issues can be used to further the cause of the poor.  Please find a way to use my fear of poverty to motivate me to serve You.  Guide my steps to be Your sheep, not a goat.   In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

 

 

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