Friday, March 18, 2005

Get Off Your Ass and Do Something

I’ve always loved the story of the Good Samaritan. I’ve always loved the idea of someone showing kindness to someone else, but only recently have I begun to realize the serious call this puts on our lives as Christians.

As I’ve read the Gospels, I’ve noticed that Jesus reserves his harshest criticism for those who think they’ve got their beliefs right, but do nothing to act on them. This parable is no different as there are two members of the Jewish clergy who pass by the beaten man. Jesus always had strong words to speak against the religious authorities whether in Temple, or calling them a brood of vipers, or here in this story.

And to make it even more remarkable is that a Samaritan is the one who is the hero. He’s the one who gets off of his donkey and cares for the man. An outcast; a heretic. And when Jesus says, “Go and do likewise,” he’s telling a Jew to go and act like this Samaritan. To show mercy and kindness and compassion.

This is the call of the Gospel. This is the call of Christ. Jesus says here that our neighbor is anyone in need. Faith is good. Believing certain things seems important to Jesus. But if we do not act on those beliefs with compassion and love for each other, that faith is dead. If we don’t bother to get off our donkeys to care for people, we are not truly followers of the Christ whose name we purport to wear.

So I pose the question to the readers: What is our obligation to the poor? How involved to we get? Is donating funds enough? Should we get involved with the lives of the poor rather than kowtowing to the rich?


Tony Arnold said...

The answer to the last question, I believe, is YES! We sit to often in our Ivory towers (or Brentwood, Franklin, etc.) and "minister" to those we are more comfortable with. Taking the Cross of Jesus and suffering definitely means getting out of our comfort zone.

On the flip side, the poor also refers to the poor of spirit. It is likely that the wealthy and well-to-do may have poorer spirits than those suffering from material poverty.

Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair. -- Thomas Merton.

DJG said...

I agree with Tony that we must get out of our comfort zones. Sometimes I just don't know how, or where to start. I do send money to shelters and food banks but find myself finding reasons not to do more. I would like to think if there was an opportunity present I would be involved, I just lack the initiative to "start" something.

Phil said...

I think the way we have to look at it is similar to how Richard Foster describes starting the Spiritual Disciplines. He talks about life as a Christian as a marathon and not a sprint. You have to start small and build gradually.

Maybe start with doing Room in the Inn once a month or find a tutoring program that you can do once a month. Go from that to the something else a little more involved and keep building. Maybe someone who does that becomes a Mother Theresa gradually instead of having an instant epiphany.

And Tony, to address your point, I agree that the rich often have poverty of spirit, but as I look at Jesus, he chose to associate with the poor (in material) and the disenfranchised by society (tax collectors, etc). We get enamoured with power and celebrity and I don't think Jesus had any concern for that type of thing. I just can't see Jesus reading People or Entertainment Weekly to find out about Brad and Jen and Angelina.

Clarissa said...

off-topic comment ... Thanks for the link! I don't do links because some of my family members wouldn't be able to handle the content on the blogs I frequent ... like your current title!! Great post, btw.

Phil said...

Would they be ok with my "Why Church Sucks..." topic below? ;-)

Tony Arnold said...

You have a great point about where our focus should be and where Jesus spent his time. What we really need is the wealthy selling all they have and following Jesus (that includes me, because middle class America is wealthy beyond comprehension compared to the majority of the world).

I recently ran across the reference below, a man who is challenging coroporate America to rethink their obligations. He supposedly lives on 1% of his income and gives the rest.

Dennis w. Bakke lives on 1% of his income and gives away 99% as
co-founder and CEO of AES, a worldwide energy giant. His national book
tour for "Joy at Work" brings him to Belmont to talk about
faith-inspired work. He not only oversees a company with
40,000 employees in 31 countries with $8.6 billion revenue, he also
created the Mustard Seed Foundation to support Christian community
development around the world. His book tells how he is challenging the business
establishment with revolutionary ideas.

Clarissa said...

No -- not "why church sucks" or the fact that you occasionally imbibe! At least on one side of my family. The other side is a little less rigid ... and I learn important truths from both.

Tony Arnold said...

Who's imbibing? I wasn't invited!

Phil said...

Go to one of the Church of the Redeemer services. Their wine is actually wine!

Actually, I'd recommend going to one of their services anyway. Comparative denominationalism is a really intruiging study and we have a lot more in common with them than I would have thought.

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