Making Others our Priority

“ If there is a poor man with you, one of your brothers, in any of your towns in your land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, nor close your hand from your poor brother; but you shall freely open your hand to him, and shall generously lend to him sufficient for his need in whatever he lacks. Beware that there is no base thought in your heart, saying, the seventh year, the year of remission, is near, and your eye is hostile toward your poor brother, and you give him nothing, then he will cry to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin in you. You shall generously give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all your undertakings. For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to the needy and the poor in your land.” Deut. 15:7-11
The Christian life is a life to be focused on others. When our Lord reduced the Ten Commandments to the Two Great Commandments in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 22, verses 37-40, He told us that we were to place the happiness and welfare of others equal with that of our own. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. We are forbidden to consider our wishes and desires in preference to the interests of others, and although we may desire good things and happiness for ourselves, we must seek those same things for our neighbor with equal energy.

William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was a man who understood this basic Christian premise and cultivated a following with that understanding. There is an interesting story telling of the dedication and commitment of his followers to this end which goes as follows: When the ship, Empress of Ireland, went down with one hundred thirty Salvation Army officers aboard (29 May, 1914) one hundred nine officers were drowned, and not one of their bodies that was recovered had on a life belt. The few survivors told of how the Salvationists, finding there were not enough life-preservers for all, took off their own belts and strapped them on even strong men, saying, “I can die better than you can”, And from the deck of that sinking boat they flung their battle cry around the world, “OTHERS”
If we love God as we say that we do, this is to be the commitment of our lives; OTHERS. To dedicate ourselves to the fulfillment of the well-being, the happiness and the spiritual and physical needs of those we encounter. To fulfill the physical needs and ignore the spiritual lacking in others is to comfort them temporarily here on this earth and then allow them to enter an eternity without Christ and to meet only their spiritual needs is to ignore the charity that the Gospel demands of the believer. “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good for edification.” Romans 15:1-2 This is the cornerstone of the Christian life; that we are to expend our talents our finances, and whatever we see as necessary to fulfill the needs of others whenever and wherever possible. This is to be our priority. Any other priority in our lives is selfishness and that is sin if it would place ourselves and our needs in preference to and at the cost of others! We are to, “Love our Neighbor as Ourselves.”

Job tells of the reason the Lord had honored him and blessed him; “Because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessings of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widows heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was as a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor, and the cause which I knew not I searched out.”Job 29:12-16 Adam Clarke, the great 18th century commentator writes: “Oh, Blessed work! To be the instruments of preserving human life and bringing comfort and peace into the habitations of the wretched. He who has neglected to preserve life, when it was in his power, he is as guilty in the eyes of the lord as he is who has committed murder.”

In the areas where we reside, there always are people less fortunate than ourselves. Where I live there are many people who eat only once or twice a day because of a lack of food, and then the food that they eat lacks proper nourishment. There are countless children without decent clothes and shoes. Single mothers abound without support and their children run the streets but many of those who name the name of Christ and churches who consider themselves to be acceptable to Christ, ignore these basic needs that exist in their communities. The Christian community seems to have sufficient funds to provide the extras and the niceties that life can provide and churches always have funds for their building programs, to build buildings built by hands instead of those temples where the Spirit of God resides, but often choose to ignore the mandates from Christ. The churches go to any means to provide funding for ministering to themselves while choosing to pass over any ministry to the poor and the needy outside of their own four walls or if they do, it’s with a small percentage of their available funds. The Gospel message is, “Do unto others” but it seems that the message of much of the present day church is, “Do unto ourselves”. The priorities of Christ should be where the most of our finances, talents, and efforts should be expended and not our own priorities.

“Those who dress their meat but for themselves, eat the bread of sin.” – Greeta
The Lord, Jesus Christ, is so gracious and merciful that He has given us an exact preview of the judgment that we all shall face at the end of this physical existence we call life. In the second half of Matthew, chapter 25, the disciple qoutes: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them one from another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Verses 31-32 “Then they themselves also will answer, “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then He will answer them, “truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” These will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Verses 44-46

Things didn’t seem to have changed much for the Prophet Isaiah warned the people of God that the same problem existed many years ago when he told the nation of Israel of the true fast that the Lord desired. “Is this not the fast that I chose, to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call and the Lord will answer; you will cry and He will say, “Here I am.”If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in the darkness and your gloom will become like midday.” Isaiah 58:6-10 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” 1st John 3:17 The words of our Lord in the 15th chapter of Matthew are:”These people draw nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”

In other parts of the world there are those who suffer great persecution for the sake of the Gospel. We have a mandate from Christ to support these brothers and sisters in their affliction but how many actually do? These believers stand to the death for their faith and we have a responsibility to stand with them, not only in prayer, but also to support those organizations that stand with them and their loved ones.

At the end of this physical existence that we call life, the epistle to the Hebrews tells us that we will face God’s judgment. (Heb. 9:27, 2nd Cor. 5:10) I can only believe that many will not hear those beautiful words, “Well done thou good and faithful servant”. I believe that the Scriptures are very clear in that only those who have chosen to be obedient to the mandates of the Lord Jesus Christ will show themselves acceptable to God and those who have made the choice to minister to their own desires, and those churches who have decided to use their funds and talents to minister to themselves while completely ignoring the needs of the world outside their own 4 walls, will fail that great test.

In the epistle of James to the church he put it in different words, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say to them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body, what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:15-17
Jesus asks, “Why do you call Me Lord and obey not My commandments?” Solomon, who was, said to be the wisest man who ever lived writes: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Fear God and keep His commandments for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Eccl. 12:13-14

By Roger Curtis

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