Summary: A look at God's call to be concerned for the vulnerable.
Our Starting Point: “What’s best for me?”
- We usually end up with a self-centered mentality. We look out for ourselves. And that is certainly encouraged within our society. We are a “winner-take-all” place where everyone looks out for themselves.
- What responsibility do we have to those around us? Specifically, what responsibility do we have to those who are at the edges of society? The struggling and the weak? That’s where I want to concentrate this morning.
- As usual, the question we want to ask is not, “What do I think we should do?” or “How do I want to handle it?” The optimal question is “What has God said about it?” We want to know the Bible’s instruction on this issue and consider how it aligns with our own.
A Problem With That: There are a ton of Bible passages that share God’s concern for the vulnerable.
- Some verses on this idea (not exhaustive): Exodus 22:21-27; Exodus 23:2-3, 6-7, 9; Leviticus 16:29-30; Leviticus 19:9-10, 13, 15, 33-34; Leviticus 23:22; Leviticus 24:22; Leviticus 25:35-39; Numbers 15:16; Numbers 35:15; Deuteronomy 10:18-19; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Deuteronomy 24:14-22; Deuteronomy 27:19; 1 Kings 8:41-43; Job 5:15-16; Job 24:4, 9-10; Job 31:32; Psalm 9:9; Psalm 10:17-18; Psalm 33:5; Psalm 34:6; Psalm 72:2, 13; Psalm 82:3-4; Psalm 89:14; Psalm 94:6; Psalm 103:6; Psalm 113:7; Psalm 146:7, 9; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 22:22-23; Proverbs 31:8-9; Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 3:14-15; Isaiah 10:1-4; Isaiah 11:1-4; Isaiah 25:4; Isaiah 42:3-4; Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 58:6-11; Jeremiah 2:34; Jeremiah 5:28; Jeremiah 7:5-7; Jeremiah 22:3, 13; Ezekiel 16:49-50; Ezekiel 18:7-8, 12-13; Ezekiel 22:7, 29; Daniel 4:27; Amos 5:11-12, 24; Zechariah 7:8-10; Malachi 3:5; Matthew 11:1-5; Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 4:14-21; Luke 10:29-37; Luke 11:42; Luke 14:12-14; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10; Hebrews 13:2; James 1:27; James 2:1-8; 1 John 3:17.
- I want to start with this unusual and obscure gospel passage (Luke 14:12-14). Jesus has been talking about how everyone seeks the places of honor when they gather for a big gathering. He encourages His followers to take the lesser place. He concludes with the powerful spiritual principle that the one who exalts himself with be humbled but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.
- But then Jesus adds a postscript. Having talked to the guests, Jesus turns His attention to the host. Instead of inviting the powerful, connected, and urbane to the lunch, Jesus tells him to invite “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind.” Doing so will leave the host “blessed.”
- Let’s state this as flatly as we can: we don’t believe Jesus on this point. We flagrantly ignore His teaching. It’s not that understanding it is an issue – it’s a simple idea. It’s not that we don’t have the resources – we have a home and food. It’s simply that we read what Jesus has to say here about how we are to treat the vulnerable and we respond, “Nope.”
- That’s not unusual when it comes to the Bible’s teaching on the vulnerable. The teaching is clear and voluminous. How voluminous? Turn over your sermon outline. I have there a list of some of the verses that deal with God’s commands and thoughts about the vulnerable: the poor, the weak, the oppressed, the alien, the foreigner. It fills the whole page. And this is not an exhaustive list.
- What does that tell us? God has a great concern for the vulnerable. Do we? Nah, we’re too busy looking out for what’s best for me.
- Some of the more interesting commands come from the Old Testament. As God gave the Law to Israel, it was a unique opportunity for Him to express His priorities. One of the things we learn from that concerns the vulnerable.
- He tells them not to harvest to the edges of their fields, but to leave the edges for the poor to get something to eat.
- He tells them that they must treat the foreigner the same way they would treat an Israelite and not abuse him.
- He tells them that when the rich use their power to exploit the poor that He will be watching and will be on the side of the poor.
- We need to pause and take this all in. God has spoken a lot about this and we don’t like what He has to say. It gets in the way of our “what’s best for me” approach.
- Maybe our objection is personal – we don’t want to be concerned about anyone but ourselves. We have the right to do that, but it puts us standing in opposition to God.
- Maybe our objection is financial – we don’t want to spend our money on others. We have a right to do that, but it puts us standing in opposition to God.