In keeping with the theme of how we live the faith we hold, today we consider the way we treat the poor and needy among us, the way we exercise the spiritual gift of generosity, the way we go out of our way for others… These are the ways we show our faith in and our love for God. These are the ways we show the world that God reigns and rules over our lives. These are the ways we show the world the power of Jesus Christ, the love of God and our fellowship by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
“Deuteronomy” means 2nd law. Not in the sense that it’s a new law, but it’s the second time the people are told about it. The first time is in Exodus, and that is recounted as narrative, as a history, as the story of God and His people. Think paper back. Deuteronomy is written as a covenant between God and the people of Israel. Think hard cover text book. It begins by reminding Israel who the Lord is and what He’s done for them to get them where they are. Their ancestors wandered in the wilderness and died there because of their lack of faith in the Lord. Here Moses readies their children to move into the Land. Besides recounting their history and how God kept saving them, Moses tells the Israelites that they’re to take care of the poor and the needy, and the foreigners among them. Not merely as acts of kindness, but because it would make them remember how God took care of them, how the Lord restored them to freedom and wholeness as a community.
The passage from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians is the follow-up to Paul’s first letter which referred to the offering that was received for the Jerusalem Church, that Paul promised Peter, James, and John. In the first 5 verses Paul is trying to arouse almost a spirit of competition between the Macedonians and the Corinthians by telling the Corinthians how generous the Macedonians are in giving; if there’s a standard of giving, the Macedonian church would be a great one: they were giving generously without being nagged or even reminded: they were begging for the privilege! They give because first they devoted themselves to the Lord. Paul explains that was to be the Corinthians’ motivation as well. In other words, the generous giving that Jesus modeled of His life offered as a sacrifice, which was the standard by which they thought themselves rich in the first place, that is the same generosity they ought to exercise.
Up to now we might draw the conclusion that today’s lessons are about how to relieve the needs of the poor and, perhaps why we should be faithful in our stewardship. But Mark moves us into a little different arena. Jesus was just asked to leave from where He’d healed the demoniac and the Legion of demons sent the herd of pigs over a bank, and they fell into the Galilee and drowned. Jesus is now back on the northwest side of the sea, Capernaum, walking through town, when the head of the synagogue, who is also the Roman administrator of the community, Jairus, comes and falls to the ground at Jesus’ feet, and begs Him to heal his daughter. After Jesus learns that the little girl has gone from ‘critical’ to ‘dead,’ He goes to the house and restores her to life.
So we hear about caring for the needy, generous giving, and supernatural power… these are the hallmarks of the people of God.
Ministry that doesn’t take care of the whole person isn’t Christian. If a church isn’t preaching the gospel and helping the poor, it is neglecting what God loves and who Jesus died for. If a church helps the poor but forgets the gospel they’ve lost their motivation and forsaken their Master. The ministry of the Scriptures to us today provides a view on how we’re to wholistically to exercise our Christian faith.
We need to recover the sense of equilibrium in our teaching, our belief, and our life. The Christian faith is that God wants us to take care of the poor and lay hands on the sick. God asks us to give our money to further the Kingdom and also to give our very lives. The Lord wants enthusiastic worship and good government and a faithful witness to the history and experience of our spiritual ancestors. And we should see results in our lives when we commit to these things.
The truth God communicates through Scripture comes in different forms for a reason: we need the various perspectives to grasp all the truth. We need to be reminded of God’s mighty deeds and how the faithful have been saved in the past. We need to see Jesus in all of His ministry. We need to know the whole history of the Church and remember how the faithful have always devoted themselves to doing good and using the spiritual gifts they’ve been given. We need the teaching of Paul and James and Peter and John, who explain to us how Jesus Christ works in the Church through the Holy Spirit. We need the witness of the Early Church to keep us straight and on the proper track, moving on the trajectory that God established, which leads ultimately to the goal of: nothing short of the reconciliation of the world in Jesus’ Name.