“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”
— ISAIAH 58:9B–11 (NLT)
It is interesting to see how childhood Bible stories influence one’s perspective on life. The story of the Good Samaritan, for example, shaped my attitude toward the needy. The story of Jesus’ instructions to a rich young man—sell all you have, give to the poor, and come follow me—influenced my opinion about wealth and stewardship.
Ironically, after thirty years of studying the Bible and teaching, I realized that both those stories begin with an identical question asked by two different men. But the answers Jesus gave were remarkably different. Why? It was not Christ’s intent to establish a theological treatise on wealth, sacrifice, service, or holiness. Jesus’ answer simply moved past the symptomatic question to a root issue that rested in the heart of each of these men.
The question asked was, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus refocused it, exposing the limited extent of their love for God and for others. God longs for us to serve because it is in that position of humility that he transforms us.
Anytime we invest in someone other than ourselves, we take a submissive posture. From this place of submission, God begins our metamorphosis into his image. In this context, we begin to realize how much we are in need of relationship with others.
Those in need provide the perfect opportunity for us to serve. When we serve, we release the attitudes of entitlement, the demands for our rights, and the temptation to allow pleasure to dominate responsibility.
In that respect, we may need the poor more than the poor need us. People do not want us to fix their problems for them. They desire to be empowered to meet their own needs. They want to be valued and have their God-given dignity restored.
SCRIPTURE TO REFLECT ON: ISAIAH 58:9B–11
1. Think of someone you know who is in need. What would it look like for them to be valued and have their God-given dignity restored?
2. How is your love for God and for others currently limited?
Dave Collins was raised in Vietnam, the son of missionaries. Based on lessons learned as a pastor, missionary, educator, international development worker, and senior executive, he founded Paradigm Ministries in 2007. Discover more at www.paradigmministries.ca.