If you haven’t heard it enough, welcome to 2018. I hope it’s been a good first few days for you.
There’s a fixed “budget” when it comes to days: We have only 365 each year. And we don’t get to “save” them up – they get spent no matter what.
So given that we have to spend our days, we should hope to get a good return on our investment. Annie Dillard puts it this way, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
This was in my year-end reflections: How much of what I do is out of self-interest, with no regard for others? And am I hard-hearted towards the poor?
“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:16)
This year, will we dare to ask ourselves these questions and answer them honestly, in order that we might become people who please God?
In the Bible, a group of religious people was asked to consider those same questions when they wanted to know why life wasn’t turning out the way they wanted to, even though they seemed to be doing everything right: They fasted, they asked God what they should do, and even seemed eager for God to come near them.
But in their preoccupation with rituals and self-gain, they could not see their hypocrisy and hard-heartedness towards the poor. They asked to be satisfied by God, but they withheld help and kindness from others.
Our call then is to stop blaming victims, stop gossiping about other people’s sins, stop condemning others, lend a hand instead of finding fault, put ourselves in the shoes of others and meet them where they are – love them.
It calls us to consider the commandment that carries as much weight as loving God: Loving our neighbour as ourselves. It is as true for us today as it was for them. When we ask to draw near to God, should we not also draw ourselves near to those whom He is near: The broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18).
But loving our neighbour requires the giving of ourselves – “Spend yourselves,” the Bible instructs.
“Do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk. Spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.” (Isaiah 58:9-10)
We need to spend time in order to hear about a person’s day when no one else will, we need to be present when a lonely heart needs someone most, and we need empathy to see and understand the invisible hurt that has been inflicted upon the person in front of us.
“There are plenty of charities and soup kitchens there and people can get fed every half an hour. But such a charity model fosters a one-way relationship and a taking mentality.We believe that people’s hurt and brokenness occurs in the context of relationships and often their families, and so healing and transformation will also come in the context of relationships – healthy ones.”
(Craig Greenfield, founder of Alongsiders International)
Who knows if we will also receive healing and experience transformation through our willingness to step out in willing and confident obedience to God?
If we would yield our individuality to God, lay down our ideas and judgement of what people deserve or do not deserve, and simply do what He says, this is what He promises: “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” (Isaiah 58:11)
Don’t we want this to be a picture of our inner lives? God keeps His promises, so we can be sure that spending our days doing justice and loving mercy will yield the best return on investment.
What we have – it all comes from God. With God’s help, we can use what He has placed in our lives and in our hands so that the glory goes back to God.
“Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.” (Isaiah 58:12)
Walls signify protection and dignity. But our city is surrounded by broken walls – do you see them? Think about the brokenness all around us: In homes, hearts, marriages and all types of relationships.
Is there anyone around us who needs protection? Is there anyone around us who needs dignity restored to them?
This is our year to stop with the gossip, turn away from condemnation, rest our pointing finger for good – and give of ourselves to those who need a healing touch, a helping hand, or even just a word of encouragement.
We’d be mistaken to think that the brokenness all around our city has nothing to do with us. The walls are broken, but God Himself is our Repairer and Restorer.
The God we serve? He is able to bring dead things to life and call into existence things that do not exist (Romans 4:17). If we answer the call to – with His help – be a repairer and restorer wherever we go, God will guide us and satisfy all our needs. It’s a promise. Trust Him.❤️