If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. * (1 John 3:17-18 NIV)
As giving is a part of compassion, so too is compassion a part of who we are as Christians. In our western culture we are taught to stand on our own two feet, it is entrenched in the philosophy of individualism. While its benefits are about being self-sufficient its weakness can be a resistance to being responsible for those around us.
This week on Q&A, Ms Grace Collier, a News Corp columnist, said
“governments did not owe workers any favours. Nobody has an entitlement to a job. Society doesn’t owe you a job. The Government can’t get you a job. The Government shouldn’t have to get you a job. There’s no such thing as Government money. There’s your money and my money.”
While the intent may be to encourage people to not be reliant on others, I have a problem with the idea that implies, you are on your own, or as she says, “there is your money and my money.” Her statement is a Capitalist statement, based on the philosophy of individualism.
At the other end of the extreme is Communism that might have said that there is not your money or my money it is our money. But I do note that this idea of communism is nowhere to be see today. And as someone once said, “the difference between communism and capitalism is that everyone know that communism does not work.”
But for Christians it not my money or your money or even our money it is God’s money. We are stewards as the story of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 reminds us, or as Peter challenges us, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” * (1Peter 4:10 NIV)
Ms Grace Collier went on to say in response to being told there is not enough jobs out there. “People can start their own businesses”, Now I guess that she would have like to qualify her statement, However I don’t know many people who are unemployed who have the ability or resources to start their own business.
Acts 20:26 give us the response we are to have to this issue, “to work hard, and to help the weak.” for not everyone has the ability to make it without a hand up or a hand along. And the truth is most of us if not all of us have had a hand up at some time in our life, maybe way back when we were children learning life skills that enable us to survive or succeed in this world today.
I come back to the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” * (Matthew 25:35 NIV)
The word of God calls us to a compassion that gives.
Added to this I look around at those who led the way in the acts of compassion. I could start with Mother Teresa who cared for the poorest of the poor. I see the couple in Port Headland who in their spare time with their own resources are helping the local community of Indigenous Australians. I see Rev. Beryl Baker and the Boronia Congregation that ministers acts of compassion to the homeless and the disadvantaged people in the Melbourne CBD. I see the Nanango church that has what we could call a soup kitchen and foodbank and as does the Life Church in Maryborough. I see Ken & Leanne Baker involved with “Love makes a way” calling the government to deal with refugees with compassion. I could share endless stories of churches, of people across the country that are rolling up their sleeves in regards to acts of compassions. They inspire me.
The example of others calls us to a compassion that gives.
If this is not enough to move us, we need to remember our Heritage.
John Wesley said “gain all you can, save all you can give all you can.”
How are we doing living that out today? The early Methodists were living it out in the prisons, in the schools, on the streets, in the hospitals and in parliament changing the laws, as acts of compassion. They made a difference, through their actions, the broken were being restored. Just as Jesus walked the streets of Israel touching lives with compassion, Jesus was touching lives through the actions of the early Methodist, who is Jesus wanting to touch with the acts of compassion through us today.
Our heritage as Wesleyan Methodists calls us to a compassion that gives.
May we together hear the call of compassion to give of our time, of our resources and of our presence.
Rev Rex E Rigby