Widening our Gospel vision

“For i was hungry and you gave me no food,

i was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

i was a stranger and you did not welcome me,

naked and you did not clothe me,

sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

Truly, i say to you as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Luke 25:42-45

What strikes you as odd about what you see above?  Is it not the instantaneous, knee-jerk reaction that says (as we learned to say on Sesame Street) ‘one of those things is not like the other, one of those things just doesn’t belong.’?  We look at that picture by those words of Jesus, and we instantly cry ‘foul’ and say that these things do not go together!  I mean look at that guy!  He’s obviously rich (what’s that, an Armani suit?)  Clearly a Mr. Smug, smiling, got-my-coffee-and-my-briefcase, 1%, drive my Lexus to work and then park it in my three car garage, businessman.  When has this guy EVER been hungry or thirsty?  When has he not been welcomed wherever he went?  When has he ever been without the finest clothes, let alone naked?  And in prison? Hah!  If he has ever seen the inside of a prison, he probably deserved it!

And my point is simply this: take any and every stereotype and cliche you have ever had about the poor and the needy and the destitute, and then remember that moment; the moment when you saw the person behind the cliche and you saw the squalor of it all through the gospel lens of a transformed heart, and realized you’d been so wrong.  And you read passages like Luke 25 and realized you were the one passing by the poor and naked and hungry, and you decided to make a change.

Now take that moment, turn your mind 180 degrees to the guy in this picture above, and then apply it there!

There are so many places i could go now, it seems impossible to pick just one, but i’ll try.  In Luke 19, we see a story of Jesus meeting and transforming a man.  Not a leper or a poor man or a homeless man but, in fact, an extremely rich man: Zacchaeus.  And when he meets Jesus and Jesus invites Himself into Zacchaeus’ house (don’t get me started!), he is transformed and his works evidence his transformation.  And it is at the end of this story that Jesus is quoted as saying, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

The simple point: Jesus came to seek and to save people!  Not poor people. Not rich people. Not smart people.  Not stupid people.  Just people!  And i think our vision for the gospel becomes incredibly narrow when we start saying that the mission of the church is to help the poor (which it is!) and then stop there.  I get provoked in my spirit whenever people say stuff like, “i want to be about what Jesus was about, which was the poor and marginalized”, b/c yes, absolutely Jesus cared about those things, but, that was not the point of His incarnation.  Jesus did not come to end poverty or champion human rights!  He came to live the life we couldn’t – perfectly obedient to the Father, die the death we should have died, raise to life conquering sin and death, and take His seat – work completed – at the right hand of the Father.  He came to seek and to save that which is lost, and until we start seeing EVERYONE as lost, our gospel vision will remain forever too narrow.  Look at the picture of that businessman and listen again to Jesus words:

For i was hungry and you gave me no food,

hungry for the gospel which would show me that there’s more to life than accumulating more and keeping my job.

i was thirsty and you gave me no drink,

thirsty for the water that truly satisfies my soul – deep inside money and ‘stuff’ never satisfies; i always need more.

i was a stranger and you did not welcome me,

i look educated and clean and successful, so you figured i was ‘ok’ and never approached me with the gospel.

naked and you did not clothe me,

though i look well dressed, i stand naked and filthy before a holy God, needing to be clothed in His righteousness.

sick and in prison and you did not visit me.

i look healthy but i am dead in my sins.  i travel the world, but i am locked in a prison of my own sin.  you thought i’d laugh at you if you told me i needed Jesus.

Truly, i say to you as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.

Maybe i am the “1%” but, in God’s kingdom, I am actually the least, for whoever is first shall be last.  Jesus says it is only with great difficulty that the rich will enter the kingdom of heaven, probably b/c it is so much harder for me to see my need of a Saviour.  Who will visit me in my invisible prison?  Offer the Bread of life to my hungry soul and the Water that truly satisfies for my thirst?  Who will show me how i can be clothed when i stand before a holy God?  Is the gospel for me too?

Selah.

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7 thoughts on “Widening our Gospel vision

  1. So often we judge people on outward appearance alone. God is no respecter of persons, and neither should we be. This post was a good reminder that everyone needs the Gospel, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

    Enjoying your blog and decided to follow you.

    Blessings!

    • It’s true – we should not be so easily led by outward appearance, but it’s easy to be moved to help someone who ‘looks’ like they need helping and to leave un-met someone who ‘looks’ fine. God give us grace to share His gospel with all He puts in our path.
      Thanks for reading and following!

  2. Good article. Thanks Wes! I do wonder if you, for your purposes in speaking of all as the needy because of spiritual need downplayed the prima facie call to care for the physically needy that the passage seems to call for. I do not deny your conclusions at all (indeed I think you have found a great theme in these verse), but the tone seemed to deny (I know you made mention of the surface need, but it didn’t get much support at all) any real concern for the needy. Jesus mission was to save sinners to the glory of God. Surely this unlies but does not cancel out the passages such as here, Isa.61, and others where poverty, sickness, slavery are dealt with. So I would commend to you a “both /and” approach which deals with the surface physical and the more important spiritual implacations.

  3. Thanks so much for commenting Glenn. I agree with you absolutely. My primary concern (and what i sought to convey) was that – in the midst of that very care for the physically needy person – that we don’t condense the term ‘needy’ to exclude those who have no appearance of being in need, but are absolutely in need, as we all are. Does that make sense? Again, not doing one to the exclusion of the the other but, absolutely, a “both/and” approach as you say.
    God’s peace bro.

    • I hoped (and knew) that was what you meant, Wes. I just didn’t see it in your blog as well as I would hve liked. Good work, though, my brother, and blessings.
      Glenn

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