Jesus’ Logic Doesn’t Make Sense

Every once in a while I get burned out on being burned in benevolence. Churches regularly get calls from people asking for assistance. A lot of the time the person doing the asking is also doing a bit of lying or scamming. And most of the time it’s easy to spot. That doesn’t mean they don’t need help. They do – probably more than they or I could ever imagine. The temptation is always there . . . the temptation to turn them away or to scold and condemn them for the choices that brought them to their current state.

That’s a temptation that I must resist. It’s a temptation we all have to resist. In the past I have often thought of Hebrews 13:2 in order to . . .  I suppose, give myself a reason to help even though logic said I shouldn’t. It says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. ” The more I read and study and meditate on Jesus, on who He was and is and is all about, the more I realize that Hebrews 13:2 isn’t good enough. Using it in this sense is akin to a teenager not throwing a party when his parents are out of town because he knows the neighbors might check in. Though sometimes we’ll take it, it’s not good enough.

Helping people should be a priority, not because we may get caught not helping people. But because that’s what Jesus did. If I am going to wear his name, shouldn’t I at least try to walk in his path? Most of the time it’s not logical for me to help the people who come to the door of our church building – especially when I can see track marks on their arms, or they have a long rap sheet or they refuse to help themselves. But every time I look in their eyes I can’t help but see Jesus looking back at me. After all, how logical was it for him to help me even though the marks of sin are still evident in my life and the list of my transgressions is both long and offensive and there are days when he must wonder if I’ll ever get my act together.

We shouldn’t help because we’re supposed to – we should help because we Jesus helped. And we shouldn’t love so that we’ll be loved – we should love because he first loved us. A fellow preacher shared this story recently. Enjoy.

“I am very blessed to get to minister to some of the poorest in Childress.  Like a young family that doesn’t live far from the church. The house they live in isn’t much better than some of the houses I’ve seen in Honduras.  On several occasions this little family of four have walked over to the church to ask for groceries … which we see that they get. They have two little girls, age 3 and 5, that are as as cute as they come … but as shy as I’ve ever seen. Due to some bad decisions in his past, the dad struggles to find work. The young mom works when she can, but for the most part they scrape by with food stamps, doing odd jobs for people  and a little help from others.

You know as well as I do, that it’s not unusual for the money to run out before the month does. This morning the mom sent me a message asking if I knew of any work someone might need because they had run out of milk for their girls a few days ago.

On my way to work this morning I stopped by the convenient store and picked up a gallon of milk (which was on sale by the way) to take to their house. When I got to their house I got an unexpected treat. Those two little “shy” girls ran up to me screaming at the top of their lungs, “TREY, TREY, TREY!” and threw their little arms around my neck and squeezed.

Just that a few months ago those two little girls were so shy they wouldn’t even make eye contact with me.  Now they were screaming my name and hugging my neck. Talk about making my day.”

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3 thoughts on “Jesus’ Logic Doesn’t Make Sense

  1. James Riley

    Excellent post on “helping” and loving because that’s who we are, not because it might get us some brownie points with God! I do want to make some comments on benevolence (even though that is not the main thrust of your post).

    If “to turn them away or to scold and condemn them” is always a temptation to sin (you did not write “always” but I do for the sake of making this point), Jesus sinned! In John 6, Jesus turned the crowd away after feeding them once. They followed him just for the feeding without understanding who he was or why he fed them. He condemned their attitude by exposing it (and in a scolding, no less).

    However, in fairness to your comments, you meant “to reject them at the first meeting.” I agree with that. We should not just look at them and reject them without making some effort to truly help.

    I agree that we are called to love and love means helping in a real way, in action and not just words. Love means not being logical at times. It means serving and sacrificing. But, I have been involved in ministry to the poor since I was 16 (34 years now). I have been part of church benevolence, community action programs, and community service organizations. And, I have learned that to truly help, one has to get involved in a person’s life for a long time (not just a chance meeting at the church or on the phone; get involved like the preacher in your story), to understand them, to love them unconditionally, to let them make their own choices and respect them even if they are not the choices I would make.

    And, I have learned that most people who call churches do not want to be helped in this way. They lie to keep you from knowing the truth. They lie and manipulate your feelings so that they will get money or food or gas, get “another feeding” without understanding the love and compassion that fed them the first time. They lie to keep from having to face the truths of their life and make changes. They do not want help, they do not want to “get well” (John 5:6)

    And, I have learned that to give them money or any other service at all only deepens their misery, reinforces the wrong thinking that got them in the mess they are in already. We have to be careful that in the name of helping we do not make them worse. I have learned that things have to get really bad for some people before they finally turn their lives around and see God was there all along (e.g. the prodigal son).

    And, I have learned that if I do the work of love (try to get involved) and decide to reject their request if they are unwilling to truly get help, then I don’t get burned in benevolence, and I don’t get burned out!

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    1. Thanks for your comments. I don’t like them… they make me uncomfortable 😉 I think everything you said is correct. When we just give a “handout” without “helping” it does deepen their downward spiral (among other things). BUT, I still find it difficult to say no – especially if there are children or other “helpless” people involved. And usually the people asking for help know this and use it.

      I think you’re really bringing up a good point in terms of the missional aspect of benevolence. When a church settles for having a reactive benevolence ministry they do very little good (in terms of truly helping people and introducing them to Christ). However, when we can be proactive and teach people to fish – then everyone wins!

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts.

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  2. James Riley

    Jeremy, not only did you understand my comments, you rephrased them better than I said them in the first place!

    Your comments remind me of two more points. First, there is a local community benevolence committee that is an excellent place for local churches to get involved and truly help people. They have a policy that addresses your concern about children above: even if the guardians are irresponsible in some ways, they will provide heat, food, furniture, and other basics for the sake of the children in many cases.

    Second, churches that do their own thing and do not get involved in community wide coordinated efforts often (not always but I honestly cannot think of an exception to this right now) do more harm. They duplicate services, do not get training, are not aware of community services available to those who need help, and are more prone to be manipulated by the emotional tricks that people play which prevents them from being held accountable for their choices which keeps them from ever growing and changing.

    Of course, one thing that one always has to be aware of is that the purpose of benevolence is to exalt God and Jesus, to bring people to God. I appreciate that in your original post, this was your concern and encouragement. Keep up the good work! I am glad God brought you to Quincy.

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