Theology

Pursuing Success with God in Mind

city-2908528_960_720

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life–is not from the Father but is from the world.” – 1 John 2:15-16

To this very day, I have been tempted to worship the god of achievement and success. Don’t get me wrong. Pursuing goals are noble desires. Getting the best grades, being promoted to a leadership position, or finding a career that will support your family is good and even commended by God.

However, when we agree with the world that “achievement and success” define who we are, this turns a noble desire into a dishonorable idol. God doesn’t want us to place our self-worth in material measurements. Our self-worth is found in Him. For Scripture says, “God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27).”

Why do you think it’s important for us to find our self-worth in God rather than in the world’s notion of value and success? Because God’s definition can’t be altered or broken, but the world’s can.

Let me give you an example. There once was a successful man named Bill. He went to a prestigious university, received his Masters in Business Administration, and developed a million dollar company. According to the world, Bill was the epitome of success.

One spring day, Bill got into a car accident. Due to physical limitations, he wasn’t able to continue his role as CEO of the company. Then his wife left him because he no longer had the authority and prestige he once had. Bill became very depressed and wondered if his life was even worth living. What would you say to Bill? I know what I would tell him.

Bill, your self-worth is not found in your achievements. Our successes can be taken from us in an instant. There is no guarantee that our material possessions will stay with us indefinitely. But I have good news Bill. There is a God who loves you unconditionally. In fact, Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before God formed you in the womb, he knew you.” Your friends and family may leave you, but God will never leave you or forsake you. There is no amount of money you can offer him. His love can’t be bought with your performance. Find your value in Him and your sadness will be turned into joy!

God knows our joy and satisfaction can only be found in Him. As the Westminster Catechism succinctly asserts: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

This is why God commands us not to love the world. He is not giving us arbitrary commands for the sake of being strict. Instead, he knows that if we pursue the desires of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life, we will end up empty-handed, burned out, and depressed like Bill was.

God is our Heavenly Father. He loves to see us smile. When we find our satisfaction in him, our goals, aspirations, and dreams will be properly aligned with God’s will.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 37:4. “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” This means that if you want to be a Marine Biologist then study diligently and he will make it happen. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit, start up a business and ask God to guide you! When you decide early on to give glory to God for your successes, there is no limit to what you can achieve!

Finally, the statement “do not love the world” doesn’t mean to hide in a basement and become a social outcast. Instead, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all things will be given to you. The point is not to find your ultimate satisfaction in what you do, but why you do it: “To give glory, honor, and praise to your Creator.” Only then will your self-worth be eternally secured.

The Christ-Myth Theory is a Myth

church-2464883_960_720

Skeptics today have been influenced by the Christ-Myth theory. This movement began from the German scholar David Strauss in 1808. It gained strength at the University of Gottingen in the 19th century, but soon declined as these claims were more scrutinized. Today, most scholars, including non-Christians such as Bart Erhman, refute this notion that Christianity originated from the cults of Dionysus and Mithras. Below are some common objections raised and how you can defend the gospel in an age of skepticism.

Objection #1: Historians have no evidence of a historic Jesus dating from the early first century, even though many contemporary writers documented the era in great detail. 

Answer: Roman Historian Tacitus writes in A.D. 64 “Nero fastened the guilt on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of Pontius Pilatus.” This passage is in perfect Tacitean style; it appears in all the Annals, and the anti-Christian tone is severe enough that forgery is unlikely.

Pliny the Younger (61-113 AD), a Roman governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor writes: “they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds.” Evidence from Babylonian Talmud (70-180 AD): “On the eve of the Passover Yeshua was hanged…He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy.”

Other early attestations outside of Scripture include: Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirist, Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher refers to Jesus as the wise king who lived on in the teachings he enacted, Suetonius (69-140) wrote in the Life of Claudius, 25:4 “The Jews at Rome caused constant disturbances at the instigation of Christ, so Claudius expelled them from the city of Rome.”

Objection #2: Philo of Alexandria, for example, wrote in depth about early first-century Palestine, naming other self-proclaimed messiahs, yet never once mentioning a man named Jesus.

Answer: This is correct. Philo of Alexandria didn’t mention Jesus in any of his writings. The argument from silence is not sound. First, there were many so-called messiahs who arose during the first century. Philo was more focused on integrating Jewish ideology with Greek Philosophy than researching a new religious movement. Secondly, Jesus and John the Baptist were people that were often associated with the Essenees, a sect of Second Temple Judaism. In the earliest days of Christianity, the movement like the Essenes was akin to all the other cults arising from Palestine that would eventually lose its popularity, or so Philo thought. Lastly, Philo died in 50 AD, only 20 years after Jesus was crucified, which was still early in the evolution and growth in Christianity.

Objection #3: The Bible is the source of the claim that we’re trying to prove are historically reliable. You can’t prove information in the Bible is true by referencing the information in the Bible. That’s circular reasoning

Answer: It is perfectly reasonable for Scott and other Christians to quote the Bible as their source for truth. All philosophical systems start with certain axioms. The question is not whether the Bible can be used to validate it’s own claim, but whether Scripture is self-consistent and historically accurate.

The New Testament documents are better preserved and more numerous in copies than any other historical document currently known. For example, there are 5,686 Greek manuscripts in existence today. Homer comes in second with 643 copies, followed by Sophocles at 193, and Aristotle at 49.

More importantly, the approximate time span between the original and copy is vitally important because literature experts find a positive correlation between time span and myth development. The longer the time span, the more likely myth develops. The time span between Aristotle and the first known copy is 1400 years. Homer’s time span is 500 years. The New Testament is less than 100 years. If the Christ myth theory camp spearheaded by G.A. Wells, Tom Harpur, and Raphael Lataster is correct that Jesus never existed, was later historicized, and the gospels are allegory and fiction, than all other historical documents should be “demythologized” as well.

Objection #4: “Herod the Great died in 4 and the census of quirinius of Syria was in the year 6. If Mary was trying to escape the census before Jesus was born, there is a huge contradiction.”

Answer: The Greek word for “first” in Luke 2:2 can be translated as protos or “before.” N.T. Wright suggests that the genitive case is a grammatical feature in Greek and is used in other passages such as John 1:15; 30; and 15:18. Moreover, Luke uses the words “first census.” which occurred because of a decree by Augustus in 8 BC. History reveals that Augustus took the census in 28 BC, 8 BC and AD 14. Thus, the census Luke is discussing was not the one in AD 7 but the one Augustus commanded in 8 BC. Although Quirinius was not the governor of Syria during this time, he held power in Syria and Judea and was able to carry out the census. Furthermore, Scripture does not actually say “governor” in the Greek. It was a very general Greek verb which meant “exercising of administrative tasks.”

Objection #5: John shifted the cleansing if the temple to the beginning of the ministry instead of the end of the ministry as told in the other gospels. 

Answer: This is not a contradiction. Jesus went to the temple on two separate occasions. In John 2:13, Jesus throws the coins but there is no mention of him overturning the tables. In John, Jesus makes a whip, but in Matthew there are no details of this. Jesus uses different vocabulary when speaking to the hypocrites in the temple. He tells them to stop turning His Father’s house into merchandise in John 2:16. However, in Matthew he quotes an Old Testament verse: “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” These are two separate events, not chronological contradiction.

Jesus often confronted the religious hypocrites, especially in places of worship. The temple was an important instrument for worship, and God was often zealous for obeying Him in these places of assembly. Therefore, instead of John mixing up the chronology, he is simply talking about two different accounts of Jesus rebuking the Pharisees in the temple.

As you can see, the Christ-Myth theory is itself a myth.

 

Born Again by the Living Word of God

“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” – James 1:21

There is a good friend of mine who made this simple yet profound statement: “Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.”

When I heard this for the first time, I recalled my former life as an unbeliever. There was no power from within to overcome my sinful cravings. I had eyes full of lust. A haughty heart stirring up trouble in the bars. Constant cravings for success and self-promotion. While the superego accused me of not achieving my idealized self, the power from within had no ability to change my carnal nature.

Without the Word of God–who is the Logos, the Incarnate Son Jesus Christ, we have no power to overcome sin (Jn. 1:14; 6:63; 1 Pet. 1:22; Eph. 5:26). This is what James is getting at here in verse 21. He says it’s necessary to accept the Word of Truth planted in us since the Word has the power to save; the power to restore, heal, and deliver us from the penalties of the messianic judgment.

John Piper, theologian and former Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church said it best:

James adds at the end of verse 21 “which is able to save your souls.” What saves our souls? The implanted word which we receive. In other words, our souls depend on the implanted word, and our souls depend on receiving the word. If you decide that you don’t need to receive the external word, you are like a person who decides he doesn’t need to breathe. If you are spiritually dead, you can carry through that decision. You can choose not to breathe. But if you are spiritually alive, you can’t. The implanted word is powerful; it produces life and breathing. It takes over the spiritual diaphragm and demands oxygen. It demands the life-giving external word. If the word is implanted in you, you can’t hold your breath forever. The implanted word will sooner or later conquer and be replenished. You will receive the word again. And you will love it.

Furthermore, the Greek word δύναμαι (dunamai) refers to the intrinsic power and inherent ability of the Word of God to carry out the salvation of our souls. From the context earlier, James says, “The Word of Truth brought us forth, or made us born again, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” -James 1:18

You may be asking, “Isn’t it Jesus alone who saves us?” And my answer is, “Yes.” Also, remember that the Word took on human flesh. The Word is God. Jesus is the Word. Hebrews 4:12 makes it clear that the Word is more than letters on a papyrus–it is alive and active. Therefore, when James says the Word implanted in us is able to save our souls, he is viewing salvation as the entire process of the Christian life, culminating in our ultimate deliverance from sin and death that takes place at the time of Christ’s return in glory (Rom. 5:9, 1 Th 5:9; Phil. 2:12; 1 Tim 4:16; Heb. 9:28).

In the end, my friend was correct. Either the Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible. The choice is yours. Let’s pray.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the implanted Word of God, which is able to save our souls. Thank you for Jesus Christ, Your Son, the Incarnate Word, who died on the cross for our sins. Thank you that His atoning sacrifice on the cross was more than sufficient to cleanse us from our sins. May we continue meditating day and night on your Word, knowing full well the logos has the power to rescue us from the grave. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Did the Sabbath Change from Saturday to Sunday for Christians?

Did the Sabbath change for Christians? A typical response from an evangelical might be: “Yes, the old covenant Sabbath on Saturday was an ordinance of the old creation. Sunday, which is the Lord’s Day, is the Sabbath of the new creation because Jesus rose from the dead.”

Is this biblical? Are there any passages from Scripture that justify the Sabbath being changed from Saturday to Sunday after Jesus rose from the dead? Let’s take a look at the most common arguments in favor of Sabbath change and whether this theological viewpoint can hold under scrutiny.

Remember, all Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, showing mistakes, for correcting and for training character (2 Tim. 3:16). Whatever view you take, it must pass the litmus test of biblical veracity. Therefore, do not trust in your denominational heritage or preconceived notions about the Sabbath. Instead, follow the Bereans, who received the word of God with great eagerness, searching the Scripture with due diligence (Acts 17:11).

Some argue that 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 defend the position that the Sabbath was changed to Sunday because Paul discusses meeting on the first day of the week, Sunday, to collect an offering for the saints. However, the expression “laying aside” in the Greek comes with the connotation of putting something aside at home. Thus, there was no religious meeting held on the first day of the week and no collection plate passed at church on Sunday. Instead, they were to gather and store up their donations at home on that day.

If there was no religious meeting on Sunday, then why did Paul specifically suggest this work be done on Sunday? Simply put, the letter would have been shared with the church on the Sabbath when they were all gathered for worship, and the first opportunity for them to do the work would be the next day–the first day of the week.

But one might object further, saying, “What do you do with all the other references to “first day of the week?” Let’s examine Acts 20:6-7 and 1 Corinthians 16:2-3 that is often used in support of the Sabbath being changed to Sunday, the first day of the week.

“But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.” – Acts 20:6-7

Look up Acts 20:7 on greekbible.com. This is interesting. The verse actually states: μιᾷ τῶν σαββάτων, or “one of the Sabbaths,” not first day of the week. So what does one of the Sabbaths mean?

In the context, verse 6 mentions the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So what were they doing in verse 7? They were counting the Sabbath weeks. They were at “one” μιᾷ or first sabbath. How do we know that?

Leviticus 23:4-6;15 ‘These are the LORD’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: The LORD’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month the LORD’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast.”

Now verse 15: “From the day after the Sabbath, the day you brought the sheaf of the wave offering, count off seven full weeks. Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD.”

Why did the Lord want His people to count off 7 Sabbaths or weeks? Because the day after the 7th Sabbath is Shauvot, which is “Pentecost.” That’s why the Pentecost is always 50 days after the resurrection of Christ.

The same Greek phrase is used in 1 Corinthians 16:2-3: κατὰ μίαν σαββάτου. The wording here in Greek is similar, but the context makes all the difference. Notice that Paul will be taking the collections and sending their gifts to Jerusalem. This offering was once again alluding to Pentecost.

Deuteronomy 16:16: “Three times a year all your men must appear before the LORD your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the LORD empty-handed.”

Moreover, other passages that attempt to argue special days and seasons are referring to the Sabbath. For instance, Galatians 4:8-10 states: Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God — or rather are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!”

Does this verse represent the Sabbath or feasts of God? No. Paul is speaking with Gentiles who never observed God’s ways. Verse 8 says at one time you did not know God. Moreover, verse 9 says they are turning back. Back to what? Back to their pagan celebrations, not back to observing the Sabbath.

Romans 14:5-6: One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

The word Sabbath is not mentioned here in this text.

Colossians 2:16: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.”

First, it’s important to note that Paul isn’t confronting the pharisaic Judaism like he was in Galatians. Instead, Paul is confronting an eastern mysticism known as Gnosticism, which maintained that secret knowledge can enhance one’s religion. That’s why he says to beware of philosophy according to the tradition of men, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8).

These pagan philosophies were attempting to persuade the Colossians, who were mostly Gentile, that perfection could be achieved through self-denial and abstinence from pleasure (Col. 2:20-23). It was therefore the Gnostics who were condemning the believers for eating meat, drinking wine, and enjoying food and fellowship when observing God’s Sabbath and festivals.

The irony here is that some people would argue Paul is talking to legalistic Judaizers who were trying to enforce the Sabbath, new moons, and festivals upon them. But the opposite is true. The Gnostic ascetics, who thought they could obtain salvation through self-denial and self-mutilation (Col. 2:21-22), were telling the believers to stop enjoying these religious festivals. Therefore, Paul says, “Believers, do not let any one judge you as in regard to food, drink, new moon, and Sabbaths.”

1 John 5:2 says, “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” Observing the Sabbath is an opportunity to rest from your labor and enjoy God. The goal of the Sabbath was never a “yoke or burden.” In fact, it’s a time of refreshment and renewal. Jesus enjoyed life!

Let me comment on an important passage from Mark 2:33. “One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain-fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. So the Pharisees said to Him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” Was this unlawful? Deuteronomy 23:25 states, “If you enter your neighbor’s grain-field, you may pick kernels with your hands, but you must not put a sickle to their standing grain.”

The Pharisees were wrong. God never said you couldn’t pick grain and eat, enjoying the beauty of God’s creation on the Sabbath. Enjoying food. Eating when hungry. What the law was against is being covetous that day. Taking all the grain, storing it in your house, and attempting to make a profit.

The question one must ask is this: Did Paul teach that the law was burdensome? Did he teach that it was a yoke of slavery, as some would suggest from Galatians 5:1? Or, is Paul talking about the oral tradition of the law, which has been misapplied by the religious leaders? If you look at the Talmud, the Jewish ceremonial laws, they add many more commandments than what the Bible teaches.

If you believe Paul is talking about the law and the Sabbath as a burden and yoke, then your hermeneutical framework might look at keeping the Sabbath and the new moons and festivals as what Paul was against in Colossians as legalistic and done away with under the dispensation of grace in Christ.

However, Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. This verse is not saying, the law is the shadow and now it’s done away. The shadow is still there. In fact, it says these are a shadow of the things “to come.” This is talking about the future “rest”, not a fulfillment of the law that is now abolished in Christ. Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18).

Finally, some theologians argue that Jesus changed His Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday because that was the day He rose again from the dead. This is called the Lord’s Day. So whenever the verbiage Lord’s day is used, proponents suggest the apostles were referring to Sunday, the day Jesus rose from the dead.

A few concerns. First, nowhere in the Bible does it explicitly state that the Lord’s day is Sunday. Theologians falsely conclude, from their own presuppositions, that because Christ rose from the dead on Sunday and appeared to His disciples on the same day, this somehow transferred the Old Covenant Sabbath to the New Covenant Sunday. However, Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28, and Luke 6:5 do say: “Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath.” Wouldn’t that therefore make the Sabbath the Lord’s day, which is Saturday?

This topic is of enormous importance because Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Jesus didn’t say to obey 9 out of the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai. He told us to obey them all. And of course, the greatest command is to “love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” And when we obey God’s commands, we fulfill the greatest command. Thoughts?

4 Apologetic Methods for God’s Existence

The word apologetic doesn’t mean what it sounds like. It comes from the Greek word ἀπολογία–to speak in defense of one’s worldview. In our case, Christianity. Therefore, when discussing the 4 different types of apologetic systems, I am referring to the various methodologies Christians use to defend their faith. Are you ready to learn? Let’s begin.

The first methodology is entitled Classical Apologetics. It focuses the use of logical criteria such as the law of noncontradiction, self-consistency, comprehensiveness, and coherence. A famous apologist, William Lane Craig, often uses the classical approach when debating the Christian worldview.

For example, he may argue for the teleological argument, which states the intricate design in nature points to an intelligent Creator. Other common classical apologetic positions include the moral, ontological, and cosmological arguments.

Christian philosopher Norman Geisler summarizes this position well: “The basic argument of the classical apologist is that it makes no sense to speak about the resurrection as an act of God unless, as a logical prerequisite, it is first established that there is a God who can act” (Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics).

The second approach to apologetics is known as Evidentialism. It’s primary focus is to ground the Christian faith on historically verifiable facts. Instead of arguing for unequivocal proof of God through logical necessity like Classical apologists do, Evidentialists argue that a high degree of probability can be articulated in favor of Christianity. The evidence for creation, prophecy, deity of Christ, and especially the historical significance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead are the main subjects in this apologetic approach.

The apologist who pioneered the evidentialist approach was Joseph Butler (1692-1752). In 1736 Butler published The Analogy of Religion, Natural and Revealed, to the Constitution and Course of Nature. Butler wrote this work to transform the old metaphysical and rationalistic argumentation in Britain to a more scientific and empirical form of reasoning.

He admitted that revealed religion like Christianity was gripped with intellectual problems, but could still be found probabilistically reasonable and justifiable. But not objectively definitive like the Classical approach.

The third apologetic position is Reformed apologetics. It attempts to argue for the Christian faith on the authoritative word of God through revelation rather than empirical or scientific knowledge.

This position would encourage the believer to base their truth in God, not through scientific inquiry, but with the presupposition or fundamental assumption that the Christian faith is already true. There is no need to ground reasoning in God by the physical sciences alone since it’s already intuitively understood by all human beings. Thus, all are without excuse (Rom. 1:20) when they deny the existence of God.

This approach was inspired by John Calvin from the 1500s and has become popularized in recent times by Cornelius Van Til. This is what Dr. Van Til said that summarizes his perspective:

“I hold that belief in God is not merely as reasonable as other beliefs, or even a little or infinitely more probably true than other belief; I hold rather that unless you believe in God you can logically believe in nothing else.” -Van Til

The main criticism of this view is that it uses circular reasoning to argue it’s case. Circular reasoning is a logical fallacy that occurs when the conclusion of an argument is used as a premise of that same argument. In other words, the premise would not work if the conclusion wasn’t already assumed to be true.

Proponents of this view have offered a rebuttal to this claim.

“We agree that presuppositional apologetics is the ultimate biblical approach to apologetics. The common accusation that the presuppositionalist uses circular reasoning is actually true. In fact, everyone uses some degree of circular reasoning when defending his ultimate standard (though not everyone realizes this fact). Yet if used properly, this use of circular reasoning is not arbitrary and, therefore, not fallacious.” – Answers in Genesis Darius and Karin Viet

The final apologetic system is called fideism. The term comes from the latin word fide, meaning “faith.” Instead of being rational (Classical), empirical (Evidentialist), authoritarian (Reformed), it is intuitive (Fideist). Furthermore, fideism maintains that human knowledge of truth is most especially found in the heart or will rather than in the intellect. For example, Fideists would contend that no matter how intellectually sophisticated an argument becomes for the existence of God, those who are living a rebellious sinful life will reject it.

People reject Christianity because Christianity is found in a person, not a religious system or intellectual program. A person requires a relationship. So then, you may know about someone, but until you meet them, intellectual knowledge makes no difference. Fideists would argue the same is true in Christianity.

Fideism was popularized by Martin Luther and was further stressed by Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. He once said, “It is so hard to believe because it is so hard to obey.” This statement expresses the idea that belief and obedience are interconnected. Therefore, if one doesn’t love God or obey Him, it’s almost impossible to convince him or her to intellectually commit to God.

What are your thoughts? Which apologetic approach do you find most beneficial? Do you think all of these approaches are valid? Why or Why not? Please comment below. Have a good day!

The Poor Are Also Created in the Image of God

“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)

Wow. I must confess, this passage is difficult for me to imitate. Throughout life, I have bypassed many beggars on the streets and ignored their plea for money. What’s my excuses consist of?

Here is a list that usually runs in my head: If they are able-bodied, why can’t they get a job? What if they use that money for drugs or alcohol? How do I know they are telling me the truth? I need that money for myself. I have a family to feed.

How do you respond when a beggar asks for money? Have these thoughts ever entered your mind? If so, you are not alone. But are these excuses valid? As Christians, I do think we need to be wise in how we give money to strangers, but are we ever justified to ignore a person in need?

Let’s examine the Bible. Jesus makes it clear in Luke 6:30, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

The Greek word for everyone is πᾶς. It means, “all people.” Similarly, in the passage above, the Greek word for anyone is ὅς, which has a totality emphasis, meaning to give unconditionally. There are at least 30 additional passages that Jesus preaches on concerning charity towards the poor.

Based on Scripture, I believe all of us have a duty to help people in need. Does that help always include financial assistance? Not all the time. If you are financially unstable, and someone is begging from you, it may be unwise to give them money you don’t have.

However, I still think there is an obligation to show Christ’s love to that person. You can certainly pray for them. Peter is a perfect example of this in Acts: “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (Acts 3:6).”

Therefore, while there may be conditions in which you can’t give monetarily, there are no conditions in which you should ignore the person.

When I was in college, I used to preach in the open air. Homeless people would come up to me all the time and ask for money. Instead of giving them money, I invited them to eat a meal with me. Most declined.

There was one person I vividly remember accepting my invitation. When we walked into the restaurant, I will never forget the reaction on the customers’ faces. It’s almost as if you could read their minds. “What is he doing in here? He smells bad.” I felt sympathy for this homeless man because I experienced what it was like to sense strong rejection, as if I was sub-human.

While we were eating, he told me his life story. I came to the realization that he was a person just like me. Full of dreams. Creative. A sense of humor. Personable. On the other hand, broken. Confused. Depressed. Despite the virtues and vices, this man was a priceless vessel created in the image of God.

This experience has helped me to become more sympathetic towards the poor and needy. And it should. The Bible tells us that if we don’t have pity for the brokenhearted, then the love of God does not reside in us. James tells us that if we have faith, but not works, our faith is futile. Our religion becomes worthless when we abandon the widows and orphans in distress.

On judgment day, Jesus will say to the righteous: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matt. 25:40).” Next time you see a stranger in need, remember that a day is coming when you will either be exhorted by your decision to help a person in need or rebuked for failing to imitate Christ’s love.

Be encouraged. There are endless opportunities to show the love of Christ to the outcasts. Here are 7 suggestions. Please add more to this list in the comments below. God bless.

  1. Go on a mission trip with your local church.
  2. Help out at Vacation Bible School.
  3. Adopt a child in the foster care system.
  4. Give to Hope for the Hungry.
  5. Bring food to a homeless person.
  6. Instead of buying a cup of coffee, save that money for a beggar.
  7. Grab some lunch with an outcast at your church who may not have a family nearby.

The Gospel in 5 Words and 5 Verses

Creation

“Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” – Genesis 1:26

Sin

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” -Romans 6:23

Love 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”- Isaiah 53:5

Grace

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God; not by works, so that no one can boast.” -Ephesians 2:8

Life

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” – Acts 2:38

 amazing-736885__340