One summary snapshot of the earliest, first-century Christian church reports that “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them.” (Acts 4:33-34) The biblical writer goes on to detail the open-handed generosity of Christ-followers who freely shared their resources in a united effort to address the practical needs of the poor. The recognition of “God’s grace” as the driving force behind this material care is enlightening.
Sometimes when we encounter the homeless, or the chronically unemployed, or panhandlers at busy intersections, or families seemingly stuck in an endless eddy of poverty, we’re distracted by questions like:
- Have they perhaps brought this on themselves?
- Are they really doing all they can to help themselves?
- Do they deserve our help?
- How do we know they won't misuse any assistance offered to them?
While there may be instances where these are relevant questions, a consideration of God’s grace reminds us that: (a) he sent his son Jesus to remedy a problem that, without question, we brought on ourselves — the problem of sin; (b) there was nothing we could do to help ourselves (and it’s not like we were even trying); (c) according to the Bible, what we all deserve is God’s judgment, not his help; and (d) Christ died for our sins “while we were yet sinners” (Romans 5:8) — i.e., with neither history nor promise on our part of changing our ways. Yet God took that risk, acted in compassion, extended his grace, generously met our need, and awaited our response of faith, with the hope of giving us a better life now and a brighter future forever.
May our collective compassion for our neighbors in need reflect such a powerful, amazing grace.
This was originally published in the "Salt & Light" column of the August 23 Intertown Record.