I can’t believe it is here already. The Together for Adoption Conference South Africa starts tomorrow with a pastor’s bootcamp and then on Friday the general session begins! If you haven’t registered yet, you still can and if you don’t register at all, you can still come. (You might just have trouble getting a free lunch!) I thought I could share one more reason concern for the vulnerable is important!
I’m convinced that one of the reasons our evangelism isn’t nearly as effective as it should be, is because the world looks at us sometimes and it sees us worship at all the same idols they are except we show up at church.
They say, “Why would I want that? I’ve got Sunday mornings to sleep in. You are pursuing money all out. You are pursuing security all out. You are pursuing comfort all out. That’s the same as me.” That’s why I think our ministry of compassion to the poor, the way we reach out to the vulnerable is, in fact, a way we evangelize the rich.
Through our lifestyle, we turn those idols and those unknowing assumptions that they have about the way life works upside down. They look at us and say, “What? Why?” We say, “God. The gospel. That’s it.” Looking at God, his commands, the way the wicked and righteous are described throughout Scripture, all of these things make it clear mercy isn’t an option for us, as believers. It’s a test.
It’s a test of the reality of our religion.
Tim Keller writes, “The poor and needy are a test. Our response to them tests the genuineness of our faith toward God. No passage is clearer, at this point, than Matthew 25. Jesus is coming. He describes Judgment Day. He distinguishes those on judgment day who have true faith from those who do not by examining their fruit. Fruit is namely their concern for the poor, homeless and sick prisoners.”
Robert Murray McCheyne once commented on this passage. He said, “I fear there are some professing Christians among you, to whom Christ will not say, ‘Come thou blessed and inherit the kingdom.'” This is Robert Murray McCheyne. He says, “Your haughty dwelling prices in the midst of thousands, who have scarce a fire to warm themselves at and have but little clothing to keep out the biting frost and yet you have never darkened their door. You heave a sigh, perhaps at a distance, but you do not visit them.”
Listen to this, this is so challenging. “Ah dear friend, I am concerned for the poor, but more for you, because I know not what Christ will say to you in the great day.” To give largely and liberally requires a new heart. An old heart would rather part with its lifeblood than its money. “Oh my friends,” McCheyne says, “Enjoy your money. Make the most of it. Give none of it away. Enjoy quickly, for I can tell you that you will be beggars, if you do not repent throughout eternity.”
George Grant writes regarding Spurgeon’s mercy ministries, “Spurgeon looked upon his work of sheltering the homeless as part of the rest of his ministry. It was inseparable from their other labors, preaching, writing, praying and evangelizing. It was inseparable, in fact, from faith in Christ. Once a doubter accosted Spurgeon on a London road and challenged the authenticity of his faith.”
“Spurgeon answered the man by pointing out the failure of the worldly in mounting a practical and consistent program to help the needy thousands in his city. In contrast, he pointed out the works of compassion that had sprung from faith in Christ…Whitfield’s mission, Mueller’s orphanage, Bernardo’s shelter. He then closed the conversation by paraphrasing the cry of Elijah, asserting that ‘God, who answers by orphanages, let him be God.'”
True believers prove themselves to be children of the father by demonstrating his concern for the helpless. They are marked by compassion that acts. They see the needs of others. They are not self‑absorbed.
When James says, “Pure and undefiled religion is this…”, this is something we need to take seriously, because it’s not like a random comment that he came up with on an off night, but rather an insight into a theme that runs throughout all of Scripture. It’s like a biblical hyperlink. It’s not an optional issue. It’s not just about sympathy.
It’s not just about personality.
It’s about holiness.