you would have to be living under a rock to not feel/see the change in the local church. it’s become pretty fashionable of late for churches to expand their local missions opportunities and to develop a greater social conscience. it’s not necessarily a bad thing, i’m just not convinced yet that it’s a God thing.
i do believe that we should be compassionate and extend a loving hand to everyone we come in contact with – not just the least of these. however, let’s admit it, it’s easier to be compassionate to somebody who is poorer or less fortunate. extend that same compassion to your next door neighbor, coworker, or colleague. go ahead try it. i dare you. it ain’t easy.
so to make ourselves feel better, we work at the local soup kitchen for an hour, or write a check to an organization that provides clean water or clothes people we don’t know. and we fool ourselves by thinking we’ve made the world a better place. but we haven’t because we have focused on the temporal (hunger, thirst, nakedness) and not the eternal (salvation).
in John 6 we hear about a story in which Jesus and his disciples feed a bunch of people. who knows how many exactly, but it was several thousand (more than five thousand to be sure). most of the time the story stops there. it’s what comes after that i find most interesting.
the day after this miraculous event, Jesus tells the thousands of people who now have a full stomach that they are following Him for the wrong reason. see, they were hungry and he gave them food and now they are not hungry. but they know they will be hungry again soon and he can do magic and make food – so they must follow Him around in case they get hungry again. Jesus is just a meal ticket.
here’s what He says to them:
47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
see I believe Jesus was not just interested in being a nice guy by turning 5 loaves and 2 fish into a meal for thousands. He was not just interested in keeping people from starving. He was concerned about their well being, but more importantly their eternity. the miracle he performed was about earning the right to be heard. about creating an opportunity in which He could share the gospel and tell them about eternal life with the Father.
so, if all we do is feed and clothe people, then all we have is fewer starving and naked. again, not a bad thing. just not necessarily a God thing.
if we are not telling people about Jesus and the eternal life that He offers when meeting the needs of others, i would suggest to you that we are not following the example set forth by Christ.
am i wrong?