This verse introduces this encouraging passage about how we can be effective Kingdom-builders by first laying out the condition. IF we are willing to give ourselves to the needs of the hungry and oppressed…
‘If’ and ‘then’ are conditional words. I find this strange as we’re so used to thinking about God’s unconditional love and blessing, but here we find something that is conditional: our effectiveness as disciples of Jesus.
In this passage, IF we are to be a “light that rises in the darkness”, or like a “well watered garden” with our brokenness repaired THEN we need to be willing to give ourselves to the needs of the poor and hungry.
Jesus tells us that we are “the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hidden”. (This is one of the many things I love about the city I live in, Lincoln- a city on a hill that all can see!) If we want to be this, Jesus also reminds us we first need to be willing to count the cost. In this passage, the cost is being willing to give ourselves to the needs of others.
This teaching is radically different from any other empire or kingdom at the time. Many other Kingdoms of the ancient world such as the Babylonians, the Romans, the Greeks and then the Khans (years later) considered Christianity to be weak or soft because of the way they cared for the poor. In those cultures, greatness was achieved through military might, big empires and impressive buildings. Not in God’s Kingdom. Greatness for God- both in the Old and New Testaments- is achieved by “making ourselves the last of all and servant of all”.
The Emperor Julian (360AD), who wanted to reinstate traditional paganism in the Roman Empire, was furious that “the kindness of Christians to strangers” advanced their cause and undermined his. He famously wrote of Christains “It is disgraceful to us that they support our poor in addition to their own”.
Father God, thank you that you value the poor. Thank you that for you this is not a sign of weakness but one of strength. Just as Isaiah taught, just as Jesus preached and just as the early church practiced, I pray you give me a heart to care for the poor in our community - even to the extent that it costs me something.
God, when you saw me, poor because of my sin and unable to afford the price, you paid it for me through Jesus on the cross. Thank you that in caring for the poor, we get to reflect your amazing, unconditional and sacrificial love for us.
I am so amazed that in serving the poor, we’re continuing a 2000 year old Christian tradition. What we’re doing through Make a Difference isn’t anything new- it’s an essential part of living the Christian life and always has been!
Here are 2 actions:
I certainly will be, and would love to invite you to join in!