In 1958, David Wilkerson read an article in Time Magazine about a murder that was committed by teenagers in New York City. Wilkerson said he heard God say, “Go to New York City and help those boys.” He was so led by his compassion and desire to follow God that he left the church he pastored in Pennsylvania and moved to New York to found the organization that is now known as Teen Challenge. The program has since saved thousands of people and has become a worldwide effort to help troubled youth and adults overcome addiction and begin their life from the ground up with a biblical foundation.
This is one of many stories that begins with a compassionate act by someone who is obedient to God’s calling and has resulted in many changed lives. It is these acts of care that speak so loudly to others. When the world sees Christians behaving with compassion, they see the Gospel of Jesus Christ being acted out. While hearing the Gospel is the first step in leading others to salvation, they have to see it in action for it to fully touch their hearts and their lives.
Jesus specifically tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all of our hearts and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). He tells us how to do that in Luke 10:30-36 in the parable of the good Samaritan. The message conveyed here is that compassion is a side-effect of love. If we love our neighbors, we will help them in their time of need. We wouldn’t let a friend, family member, or other loved one lie on the the side of the road after being mugged and left for dead, and we shouldn’t treat our neighbor any differently.
In Matthew 25:40-46, Jesus says “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” That is because whenever we help someone in need, we are doing the will of God. When you look at the world from His perspective, you see everyone as a descendant of Adam and Eve. Everyone is a brother and sister and a son or daughter of God. That’s why it hurts God so much to see us treat each other poorly and overlook each others’ needs. A good parent doesn’t want to see two of their children hurting and not helping each other, and God doesn’t want to see that in us either.
It can be easy to think this all sounds good on paper, and that most people who need help need it as a result of making poor life choices. The problem is that we have all made bad choices at one time or another. If we want to receive God’s unending grace and mercy, we need to be ready to give grace and mercy to others as well. You may not think they deserve help, but we don’t deserve God’s help or His salvation either.
That is not to say that we should continue to give money to someone who doesn’t help themselves. Sometimes people need more than financial help. They may have never had a great influence in their lives to tell them how to make good decisions. They could literally not know any better. Sometimes we can help our neighbor in the form of education, or by pointing them to a ministry that they didn’t know about that could help them get on their feet. We have to become acquainted with people to discover their needs.
We also have to be compassionate because people are more receptive to what we say when we are helping them, or when they see us helping others. Think about it; you have two people telling you something: one has been a good friend to make small talk with and the other has been to your house to fix your sink, replace your cracked radiator, and bring you food. You are much more likely to listen to the second friend. If you are like that second friend to others, the people you talk to will be much more likely to listen to you when you tell them the Good News of Christ as well!
There is a famous saying: “Compassion is love in action.” It is true! When you practice compassionate giving, you are practicing love. This will make others that are seeking love, (i.e. Christ) come to you. The same way we go to a professional for advice in their field of practice, others will come to you when they see you acting out of your love for others. This gives you the perfect opportunity to share Christ’s message with them. They see His love acted out in your life and notice that you are different from everyone else. This is what Christ means when He says in Matthew 5:16, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
It has become common in our culture to be sedentary. The high sales of electronics and convenience items speaks well to this fact: televisions that we can speak commands to in favor of pushing buttons on a remote, watches that we can read text and emails on so we don’t have to pull our phone out of our pockets, and even alarm clocks that put the time on the ceiling so we don’t have to turn over to look at them. I’m not saying these devices are bad inherently, but they say a lot about our culture and the reason why many of us are less moved to action than we were in years past. This is something we must overcome.
It’s easy to think that someone else will see another’s needs and fulfill them, and just as easy for us to ignore the needs we see in front of us. We don’t always see these needs every moment of our daily lives, so we don’t have a constant reminder. For someone else, however, these daily needs that we ignore and forget are their daily way of life–a daily struggle to find food, shelter, and sometimes even just survive. It’s important for us to keep these people in our prayers and to be moved to action to help them. Our love for Christ should compel us to be a light to the world, and compassionate giving makes that light shine brightly to help everyone see it.
Could you imagine a world where everyone received the help they needed? A world where no one starved to death or died of treatable diseases? This ideal world is only possible if each one of us helps another. If every individual were to help someone or give to an organization that helps others, we could create that world. Some people don’t have time to give, but they have finances they can spare, while others don’t have any finances to give, but they could spare a few hours a week. Whatever way we can help, we are told to do so (Acts 20:35). The first step is making a conscious effort to begin helping. Think of a friend in need or an organization that fills a need that you feel God is calling you to support, and pray about giving to them financially or volunteering with them. This isn’t to say that it is going to be easy, but it will be worth it… and it will show the love of Christ to a world that desperately needs Him.
I’m not writing to you to make you feel guilty or shame you into anything. That isn’t my intention. I’m writing to encourage you, empower you, and help you be moved to help someone in need. No one person can do it by themselves; it takes all of us, so prayerfully consider being a light to someone today. May God guide you to the person who needs your help, and give you the courage to reach out your hand.
Hebrews 13:16, “ Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”