For a longer time I have been thinking about how I can help my fellow men. Practical help. In the last months two bible passages have become important to me, which I would like to share with you.
Isaiah 58, 2- 6 (it is worth reading verses 1 – 14)
Oh, how pious they think they are!
Day after day they call for me and ask for my will. They like to come running to the temple to seek my nearness. Because they imagine that they live according to my commandments, they also demand their well-deserved rights from me. “Why don’t you see when we fast?” they accuse me. “We toil, but you do not even seem to notice! To this I answer: How do you spend your fasting days? You go about your business as usual and drive your workers as usual. You are fasting, but at the same time you quarrel and argue and strike with a raw fist. If this is supposed to be a fast, then I do not hear your prayers! Do you think you would be doing me a favor if you merely renounced food and drink, let your head hang and sit in ashes in mourning garments? Is this what you call ‘fasting’? Is this a day when I, the LORD, have joy? No – a fast that pleases me looks different: Loosen the fetters of the people who are wrongfully imprisoned, free them from the oppressive yoke of slavery and give them back their freedom! Abolish every kind of oppression! Share your bread with the hungry, take in homeless people, and if you meet one who walks around in rags, give him clothes! Help where you can, and do not close your eyes to the needs of your fellow men!
Matthew 25, 35 – 40 (also here it is worth reading verses 31 to 46):
For when I was hungry, you gave me food. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger with you, and you took me in. I had nothing to wear, and you gave me clothes. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me. Then they who have lived according to God’s will will ask, ‘Lord, when did you go hungry and we gave you food? Or thirsty, and we gave you something to drink? The king will then answer them: ‘I will tell you this: Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers or sisters, you did for me!
These verses have made me very thoughtful. We (and I expressly include myself in this) often behave quite piously: we go to church regularly, pray, fast and read the Bible. These things are good! But that is not all. If our praying is without fruit; our fasting remains without the charity described in Isaiah and the reading of the Bible is not put into practice, then everything is worth nothing. Why? Because it is only about one’s own wishes and concerns. Egocentrism. An egocentrism that is spreading in society. With us Christians it should be different? Is it? How is it with me? This question must be answered honestly by each person and the consequences must be drawn.
YOU can make the difference!
Many of us are rich enough to give bread to the hungry, to take in the homeless or to provide clothing for people dressed in rags. We can do this practically or support with our money aid organizations that do exactly that. There is enough need.
Or let us give from our material abundance. Let us share our belongings. For example, the “Kinderschutzbund” in Germany is happy about well-preserved children’s clothing that we no longer need. The boards about a food donation.
Even if we ourselves have little, we can practice charity: Shopping for the sick neighbors, perhaps weeding the older ones in the garden. Or get involved with the people that feed the homeless, hospice associations or aid projects ourselves. We can spread the Word of God and thus give people comfort and confidence. We can visit the sick or use our talents for others. All this costs only about time and no money.
Everybody has gifts and everybody can do something according to his possibilities. In my eyes, there is no excuse to get up from our comfortable sofa and get to work. In any form whatsoever. God will show you what He wants from you! We will not be able to save the whole world with our help. But we help people around us and make their lives easier or more beautiful.
This is how we get from “I” to “you”. Away from our own egocentrism.
These are things we can do. In the same way there are “sins of omission”:
For I was hungry, but you gave me nothing to eat. I was thirsty, but you gave me nothing to drink. I was a stranger with you, but you did not take me in. I had nothing to wear, but you would not give me clothes. I was sick and in prison, but you didn’t visit me. The king will answer them: ‘I assure you: The help you refused to give my least brothers and sisters, you refused to give me.Matthew 25, 42 to 45
These are clear words that Jesus finds here. The consequences of this refusal are obvious (verse 46): and they will be at the mercy of eternal punishment. In Isaiah 58, 4 it says: If this is to be a fast, then I do not hear your prayers!
We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Not out of fear of punishment, but because we love God and should become more and more like Jesus. And He has just taken care of the outsiders, the sick, the poor and the needy. Of course there are times when we can do more and there are times when we cannot help or even need help ourselves. Quite clearly. But everything has its time.
Think about where you stand today. And then draw the consequences.
Let God give you love for your fellow men and say “yes” to them.
Open your eyes and your heart for your fellow men.
Think about what you can do today.
Do not only talk, act.
Turn your fast into a real fast.
Let your charity become practical.