FROM THE 'DEEP' END: Making a contribution
There are times that I’ve been accused of being a “self-help pastor” because often times the things I talk about from the Bible are principles that can be useful for people’s everyday lives. In fact, I often hear myself say something like, “You may not even believe in God, but this can still apply to your life.” The thing is, when you follow Christ, there is a definite tension that exists between what following God can do for you and what God has called you to do for others. The Bible calls the Holy Spirit “The Helper,” so there is something to the idea that God wants you to succeed. He knows how relationships work because He created them and He knows how finances work because He created them. Why wouldn’t God want to help you with those things?
If you call yourself a Christ follower, you might be at a place where you can see how following Jesus has improved your life. Maybe your marriage is better, or your relationship with your kids has improved. Maybe you’re not as angry or bitter as you once were or you just enjoy life more than you used to. All of those things are awesome and God wants your life to be full of joy and not misery, but there comes a time where you’ll be confronted with the other side of what it means to follow Jesus — to not just be a consumer but a contributor.
Jesus addressed this tension when He talked about the Good Samaritan. Even if you’ve never read the Bible you’ve probably heard the story and know it’s a lesson on helping your neighbor. If you go back and look at this parable that Jesus told, it’s a great place to answer the question about this tension.
In Luke Chapter 10, Jesus tells this parable after a lawyer asks who He meant by “neighbor” when He said to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. The fact that the man was a lawyer is pretty significant because it meant he was an upstanding member of the religious class and the political class. What the lawyer really wanted to know was if “neighbor” was just another word for “colleague?” Were his neighbors only people like him, or did it mean more than that?
Jesus goes on to the tell the story of a man who is traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he is robbed, beaten and left for dead.
Vs. 31-32 “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.”
These people, a priest and a Levite, were upstanding members of the traveler’s community, yet they didn’t stop. They probably had legitimate reasons for not stopping. Maybe the priest thought the man was already dead, which would make him ceremoniously unclean. But if they weren’t this man’s neighbors, then who would be?
Vs. 33-34 “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came to where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.”
This probably made no sense to those listening to Jesus. There would be no reason for a Samaritan to even be on that road. Plus, Jewish people didn’t associate with Samaritans. They were seen as outcasts and half breeds of society. In fact, the Jews disliked the Samaritans so much, if they were traveling from Jerusalem to Galilee they would take the long way and go around Samaria. They would rather travel out of the way down a dangerous road than to have to associate Samaritans.
Vs. 36-37 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’ The expert in the law replied, ‘the one who had mercy on him.’ Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise.’”
We know that when we follow Jesus, we live with this tension between consuming and contributing, but there are really no bounds to how far we are asked to consider who our neighbor is and what we should do for them. When He asks us to care for those around us, He doesn’t just ask us to consider those who aren’t just like us, but He asks us to take care of those who are nothing like us. The tension between consumer and contributor leans much closer to contributor than we might think.
Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at email@example.com.