Thursday, February 19, 2009

“You shouldn’t help that person because it might interfere with what God is trying to teach them.”

The Hindus of India said something similar to Mother Teresa when she began helping the poor and dying in Calcutta. Of course, they referred to karma (paying for one’s sins from another life—another version of “suffering the consequences”) yet what I hear from many Christians stems from the same root.

Jesus, on the other hand placed a high value on our helping others--to the point of assigning eternal punishment to those who don’t. (Matthew 25:31-46 I didn’t write it. You’ll have to take it up with him!) He placed no qualifications on that help, saying, “Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”(Matthew 5:42)

But doesn’t the Bible say that trials and suffering build character? Yes, but the context is always that of suffering persecution for being a follower of Jesus, not the day to day difficulties of life that God’s people are to band together to alleviate (Acts 2:44,45; 2 Corinthians 8:13-15) When Paul could avoid even the “beneficial” kind of suffering, he did. (Acts 9:25)

The “elder brother” in Jesus’ parable of the runaway son would have liked to have seen his little brother “learn a lesson” from God (represented in the parable by his father) after his bad behavior. (Luke 15:30). I suppose he thought it would be more appropriate to have him sleep in the barn and remain in his rags. Instead, to what must have been the elder son’s utter astonishment, his father didn’t punish his runaway son, but celebrated his return, welcoming him with open arms!