One cannot watch the news for long without hearing the latest on the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. Those in favor of this legislation are embarrassed by the technological quagmire. Those opposed to this form of socialism are angered by the dishonesty, fraud, waste, and governmental infringement upon their wallets and personal liberties.
Not that you were asking, or even wondering, but I am on the more conservative side in my political leanings. I appreciate a free market, personal freedom, low taxes, and a very small and intentional Federal government. Additionally, when legislation touches moral issues, I find myself again on the conservative side of the aisle. However, as a religious teacher and born again follower of Jesus Christ, I must ask myself a couple questions, “I know I am more conservative, but am I also more compassionate than those who don’t know the Savior? Would my manner of living cause my liberal socialist friends or my non-religious neighbors to take notice and smile? Would they be impressed by my compassion?”
James understood Jesus; after all, they were half-brothers. At first he was not a Christ follower, but following the resurrection, he signed up for the cause. It is hard to argue against someone who was crucified in public, placed in a grave for three nights, and then was found conversing with you in your den. So, James understood Jesus’ teachings on sin, salvation, heaven, and hell. He also understood Jesus’ emphasis on showing compassion towards those who are poor, sick, crippled, outcast, abandoned, aged, imprisoned, or widowed. James understood Christocare, and he wrote the following:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world … What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 1:26-27; 2:14-17)
In my neighborhood, there are those who are scandalous. Next to them live those who are lazy. A few doors down the road are some illegally residing in this country. These people should be encouraged to change their manner of living; they need to be ambitious and make progress. However, if they refuse to address their character issues, Scripture is clear, “Those who will not work, should not eat.” (That is, unless we want to show them grace and mercy as the Lord did to us — but that is another devotional.)
However, all around me are low-income families. Some are elderly people who have had their retirement accounts decimated. Some are under-educated because their parents sinned greatly against them. Some are handicapped. Some are struggling with mental disorders. Some are single mothers who have been abandoned by both their husbands, the police, and the court system. Not all are suffering due to their own folly or sin. So what should we do? Should we ignore their plight and chalk it up to modern evolution — survival of the fittest? Should we conclude that families like this need to cease to exist for they mess up the neighborhood? Or should we be missional and incarnational like Jesus? I think we know the answer.
At this point, you might expect me to start talking about the Church. Many have heard and uttered statements like, “There would be no need for welfare if the Church would just do her part.” However, I am not sure this is correct. When one studies mercy ministry in the Scriptures, one sees that it is to be focused on those inside the family. The Church is to take care of her own. The Church was never intended to be a drug rehabilitation clinic, a hospital, an academy, a food bank, or job placement service.
So then, if the answer lies not with the government, and not with the Church, then who is left to help? Then answer is, “You.” The responsibility lies with your family. Each of us are to learn from the Good Samaritan. While going through his normal day, he came upon someone in need. Because he had compassion, he spent his valuable time, money and energy to assist this one person. He didn’t wait for governmental assistance. He didn’t rely on his deacons or food pantry. He didn’t become stalemated because of all the other hurting people. Personally, he took responsibility to help this one hurting soul that the Lord had placed in his circle of life.
Now it is true that when enough concerned people leave the Church and engage the world, non-profit organizations begin to spring up. These organizations serve a great purpose in that they focus on a specific need and allow the Church to focus on discipleship. Para-church ministries are valuable, but they do not take away your responsibility to spread Christocare.
So, here are some questions for you to consider and pray through:
- Who are the widows in your life?
- Who do you know that has not a father or mother?
- Who do you know serving time in prison?
- Who do you know that is poor?
- What spiritual gifts has the Lord given you that can be of help outside the Church?
- Can you start setting aside a portion of your income to serve the needy?
Christian, let’s lead our culture in meeting the needs of the hurting. May God help us not to throw stones at Obamacare without stepping up and promoting Christocare. For according to James, this is good religion!
Scripture Reading Plan
Thursday, November 21, 2013: Ezekiel 22-23; James 2
Friday, November 22, 2013: Ezekiel 24-26; James 3
Saturday, November 23, 2013: Ezekiel 27-28; James 4
Sunday, November 24, 2013: Ezekiel 29-31; James 5
Monday, November 25, 2013: Ezekiel 32-33; 1 Peter 1
Starting January 1, 2014, this blog will most likely follow a Chronological Reading Plan that will read through the Scriptures in one year. If you have never done this before, it will help your grasp of biblical history to read the Bible in this manner. More information will be coming regarding the particular plan.