Friday, June 27, 2008

Reality Therapy

Thursday evening at ZB's Eagle Scout ceremony there was a slide show with songs in the background. (Cue the country music...) One song was "Summertime Blues."
"Well my mom n papa told me, son, you gotta make some money
if you wanna use the car to go ridin' next Sunday.
Well I didn't go to work, told the boss I was sick."
"Now you can't use the car cause you didn't work a lick."

I'm thinking about this and getting ready to preach Sunday. Are we ready for reality? Do we encourage it in others? Or do we just give in when people ask or demand generosity? The picture on this week's bulletin cover, and the words, might give you the impression that we always need to say yes. There's a photo of white cup being held out by a smiling friend. And the words of Jesus "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me."

Christ followers who don't walk carefully through the Bible can get the impression that we need to go around doing all kinds of good things for whoever asks. But as we read the whole story of Jesus, we see that even Jesus didn't do that. There were times when, by his actions, he said "no." And the quoted verse from Matthew 10:40 isn't about welcoming just anyone. It's about welcoming servants of God.

No one is called to passivity. All but the bedridden are to take care of themselves, as best they can, so they can bless others. There's a part in Second Thessalonians that says "Anyone unwilling to work should not eat." God calls all who are able to "labor and work honestly... so as to have something to share with the needy." Ephesians 4:28

But sometimes, when we are faced with a person who has wants (as opposed to needs), we are tempted to just go along with their requests. Sometimes we are afraid to say "no." There have been times when I've done too much, especially when that person is dear or when the person is coming out of an especially painful situation. Certain people tug at heartstrings and we say a reluctant "okay" instead of helping them stand strong.

That's when I'm thankful for professionals. Yesterday, one of them said something like this. (She works with adults who have special needs.) When working with people in need over a longer period of time, try to keep their daily life as normal and realistic as possible. For example, people don’t get rides to go up to St. Cloud to go shopping twice in the same week or buy four pairs of shoes within a week and a half. If people keep coming out of the woodwork and invite the needy person to do fun things all the time it can become unreal. Our goal needs to be to try to help people function in real life, and not partying all the time. They may try to get people to do things for them, but with professional encouragement and friendly prodding, they can do more for themselves and live more normally. They can earn more fun times by possibly getting a job, or volunteering, or keeping their household in order. They must continue to be held accountable and be responsible, just like the rest of us are. It's our job to assist them and to encourage them and compliment their efforts.

Christians aren't called to unlimited acts of kindness. Wives are not called to bow to every whim of their husbands. Parents who love their children need to give them unconditional love and the necessities AND help them stand on their own two feet. Even the handicapped can be spoiled.

What's going on in Matthew 10:40-42 is purposeful kindness. The kindness in Matthew 10:40-42 is extended to those who are doing God's work. On the other hand, when we aren't doing what God asks of us, we can be spoiled. This can make us lazy, demanding and unhelpful. Liberality can breed dependence, as every wife, mother, social worker and pastor knows.

Are we to be generous, and help those in need? Yes. When someone is hungry, in prison, sick, or abused, we must help. But, beyond that, God's wisdom, and true kindness, demands that we teach "scouts" young and old to grow and get ready to take their place as full fledged disciples, eagles of the Lord.

1 comment:

  1. Pastor Steve, Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share Zach's Eagle celebration with us. We really loved how wrapped the word of God up with the teaching of Boy Scouts.
    I found your Invocation & Benediction to be the best I've heard at an Eagle ceremony yet. Our family appreciates the time you put into this for us. The Barth's