Our First Focus
I have been thinking and thinking over one verse in the Bible this week. Matthew 26:11. It’s such a short verse, but it is so full of meaning that it has led to a much deeper study of the heart of God and His desires for us as His people in these last days.
Throughout the Bible, God commands Christians to take the focus off themselves and care for those that are less fortunate. Most often it refers to the less fortunate as the: “widows, orphans, poor and needy.”
The verses where God commands or speaks about Christians caring for the needy are plentiful; they fill the pages of the Old and New Testament...Psalm 72:12, Mark 14:7, Isaiah 1:17, Job 29:16, Isaiah 58:6-7 & 9-11, Proverbs 19:17, Proverbs 21:13, Psalm 41:1-3, Isaiah 58:9-11, Matthew 19:21, Matthew 25:31-45, James 1:27, Jeremiah 22:16, Proverbs 28:27...and these are just a few.
Inside these verses are blessings for the Christian who follows God’s command to care for the poor; and cursings for the Christian who turns a deaf ear and blind eye to the poor. In these verses, Jesus says that what we have done to the least in this world--it was as if we did these acts unto Jesus Himself! There are promises here that tell us if we will take up this work we will be given treasure in heaven, and when we pray God will hear us. He even tells us if we don’t do these things our “religion is [in] vain,” because “pure religion is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction.” James 1:26-27
These are mighty verses showing the heart of God. God loves the broken hearted, the poor, the fatherless—and He will fight for them!
Even so, despite how many times we are commanded to care for the poor and needy, there is a curious encounter in Matthew chapter 26 that at first glance would make us think Jesus is contradicting God’s Word.
The disciples see a woman with an alabaster box full of costly ointment, then she proceeds to pour the oil on Jesus’ head. The disciples were incensed. How could this woman waste so much money on ointments when there were so many needs; so many poor to feed and care for...that money could “have been sold for much, and given to the poor!” (Verse 9)
And in another gospel account in the book of John; we are further told the motives of one of the disciples hearts...the true concern for this disciple was not the poor, but that Judas was a thief who would have easily taken that money for himself and not the poor. (There is certainly a modern day “side note” here...how many professed preachers of God’s word are like Judas? Wolves in sheeps clothing-truly only concerned for growing their own pockets and not for doing God’s will. As Christians we have to “be wise as serpents and gentle as doves” to discern who are the true preachers of God’s word!) But, curiously, despite Jesus’ own deep love and concern for the poor, He doesn’t agree with their outrage over this perceived “waste.”
Instead, he says: “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.” (Verse 11)
....And there it is! Again, the heart of God.
He does want us to take care of those less fortunate; to put ourselves aside and to serve the widows and the orphans—-but He wants something else to come first.
What He was telling His disciples is that they needed to put their first focus on Him—the Savior. He wasn’t saying the poor didn’t need help, or for the disciples to wait for a convenient time to help. He was saying to them the same message He is saying to us today. Before we can go out to a dying world, we have to spend time at the feet of the Great Physician and learn from Him. Then...and only then, would we truly be able to care for the less fortunate. Then and only then would we have anything to offer them. We cannot present a Savior to a dying world-if we don’t know Him ourselves.
To know the Savior. This is our first work as Christians.
Spending time in God’s word, spending time in prayer connected to Jesus, and pausing to consider His great sacrifice...daily—these are the first callings on a Christian’s life.
We will never know the will of God for our own life, or for our service as a Christian, or be able to effectively help the less fortunate if we don’t spend time with Jesus. What better way to know the Saviors heart, than to read His own thoughts throughout the pages of the Bible.
I believe a day is coming, and coming soon (and has already come for many around the world) that we will not be allowed to have our Bibles. What sits on many shelves today collecting dust, will soon become a privilege to possess (if we get to have one at all). What will Christians do then? Now, is the time to hide the precious words of Christ in our hearts.
Then after we have spent time with Jesus...very clearly we are not called to just sit in a pew once or twice a week and give a few amens to the entertaining sermons. Quite the contrary, once we have sat at the feet of Jesus and allowed Him to fill us, God begins calling us—no, He commands us—no, it’s still even greater— He pleads with us that we are to go out into a dying world and share this Savior we now know and love.
Many are dying to know the beautiful truths you are privileged to have learned. Many are dying for a helping hand, a healing word—don’t hold back “life” from those who are desperate and dying in this world without it!