There are two rationalizations that I find particularly bothersome. The first is: “Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.” The second rationale I find particularly troubling.: It goes along the lines of “Don’t give money to a beggar because they’ll only spend it on drugs (or booze).”
The problem with this is it sounds like wisdom, and it convinces us that we are actually helping the person by not giving to them.
A Christian died in the streets of Boston,
He had no home to rest his weary head.
Being more like Christ than all the lost ones
Who securely dwell in stately homes,
He lived on the streets through which he roamed,
And by god’s hand, like a sparrow, was fed.
The danger we have as faithful people reading and hearing the Gospels is that we can often dismiss the Pharisees and others as simply being enemies of Christ, and therefore, they are of no concern for us who are Christian. Yet, the Pharisees are a cautionary tale for the “religious” Christians: we can get so caught up in our own purity and righteousness, we forget that we are sinners like everyone else, and we demand people be like us, instead of being with them wherever they are — we demand sacrifice and ignore mercy. We become spiritual tax-collectors — abusing, extorting, threatening, coercing in the name of God.
I always think how disappointed the paralyzed man must have been when Jesus declared his sins forgiven. I know we are all religious, so the sin part seems to be obvious, but the man is not brought to Jesus to be forgiven, but to be healed.
Matthew’s Gospel begins and ends with the statement, or the promise, that God is “with” us. The word “with” does not only mean company, as in God is in our presence. The word “with” also is used as “for” and “solidarity.” We tells someone, “I am with you,” meaning: “I am for what you are doing,” or “I am in solidarity with you.” The word “with” also is used to mean “understand.” When someone who is listening to someone says: “I am with you,” they mean: “I understand what you are saying.” So Jesus as God With Us is a declaration that God is in our presence, God understands us, and God is for us and in solidarity with us. As Karl Barth says: Jesus is God’s “Yes!” to humanity.
Salvation came to that house, not because Zacchaeus was converted, but because the crowd who hated Zacchaeus was converted. They saw who he was and changed. The lost were found because the crowd saw how they have refused to see Zacchaeus as the good man he was, but only accepted him as the bad man they decided he had to be because of his job.
Fundamentalist at my door: Are you saved? Me: (Smiling broadly) That’s a very interesting question. I guess I would have to answer: Yes, I am ALREADY saved, as the Bible says in Romans 8:24 and Ephesians 2:5-8. But, I would also have to say that I am BEING saved as it says in 1 Corinthians […]