December 5, 2013

Isaiah 11:3-4 He will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.

Particularly the last part of this is not the image we have of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild!” Jesus was compassionate, certainly, but He was and is in no way weak, and He was and is not what we would call a “bleeding heart.” The biggest problem with “bleeding heart” people is that they make decisions based on externals, which is exactly what this passage says Christ will not do. An excellent example of that is the tendency to throw money – particularly other people’s money – at poor people, without any real thought as to why they are poor. In the long run that generally makes the problem worse, as is evident in the US and elsewhere. The Bible tells us again and again in various ways that “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) Scam artists get away with what they do (at least for a little while) by appealing to externals and putting on a good show. As this passage makes clear, that never holds up on the eternal scale, however successful it might look to human eyes. It’s also helpful to put this in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) Jesus’ usage of “poor” obviously doesn’t exclude those without finances, but it certainly isn’t limited to them. Probably the best definition of “the poor” from a Biblical perspective would be, “those who realize they have nothing without God.” That’s why Jesus said it’s so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God: they tend to trust in their material wealth, instead of in the One who enabled them to acquire it. (Luke 18:23-25) When God is our highest value, our all, then every promise given to “the poor” applies to us.

I’ve never been materially affluent, but God has certainly been faithful to meet my needs. I’m very grateful to have grown up with that as the example in my home. When I was a small child in post-war Japan, our standard of living was distinctly higher than those around us, but it was not high by American standards. When you consider that my father was a university chancellor, our income was low indeed. However, even though I was occasionally aware that we were in a financial pinch, I never felt that money was a goal for my parents, a value, if you will. They believed, and projected, that God was our supply, but that we are responsible as stewards of all He supplies, both material and otherwise. I’ve tried to live like that, but I’m not the best judge of how successful I’ve been. A parallel issue is how I deal with the needs of those around me. James is bitingly practical on that issue. (James 2:15-16) However, I must not fall into the trap of judging by externals, but ask the Lord for His wisdom in each situation. That’s a lot harder work than “going with the flow,” but the results are far better in the long run, both for me and for those I help.

Father, keep me from closing my heart to anyone. You know the emotionally needy person who came to mind just now. She has been hurt, certainly, but she has made a career of being a victim, and has the “passive aggressive” thing down to an art. I do pray for Your truth to penetrate and set her free, and I also ask for wisdom in how to relate to her without being manipulated by her. May I be faithful as Your agent, not just toward her but all the time, so that Your will may be done in and through me for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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