Good works, charitable donations…they do not save us. We know that we are saved by the great grace of God, plus nothing. The moment we try to add something to the mix, we are refusing to accept that Jesus was enough.
There is definitely a place for works, though, as James reminds us. A believer in salvation by grace through faith alone will manifest that grace as a reflex action…and it will be more and more as we understand more fully our debt to Him, and our love grows for Him. Because the most beautiful of works spring from a loving heart, not from some sort of moral check list.
So God’s people, more than anyone else, should never be outdone in the giving department. Now, we are admonished to be “wise as serpents, harmless as doves”…so we don’t hand over cash to the random vagrant (at least not without some prayer and Holy Spirit persuasion). It is ironic, though, how the human mind works…that self-centered inclination we all have, which says that a person is not deserving of help (especially if it is a repeat occurrence).
I watched a little video clip recently which had actors posing as moms on food stamps. The actors would have their order rung up and then realize they had no cash to cover things like baby formula and diapers. They recorded the responses of the people behind them in line, and almost without fail there was a person (sometimes multiple people) who stepped up to pay for her entire bill. People were compassionate, giving humbly. It was one of those things that sort of renews your hope in humanity. But then, if this is (gratefully) what the general population will do, what ought WE to do?
I saw another scenario where a guy posed as a homeless person. He asked for change for food. No one helped. He was not viewed as deserving. The only people who reached out to him were fellow street folks. That is where we raise the bar.
I still have a vivid memory of my freshman days at Tennessee Temple University. Dr. Lee Roberson was chancellor at the time. A man who dressed impeccably, and always exhibited gentlemanly, sterling behavior. The picture in my mind was during revival services. The school was smack in the center of Chattanooga. It’s a big city. A number of rescue missions, and lots of needy people, “down on their luck”. A grimy man, dressed in rags, responded to the invitation at the conclusion of the service. Yes, I guess I must have been peeking…because I saw that man kneel, and I saw Dr. Roberson kneel with him, all polished in his double-breasted navy suit and white shirt. He put his arm around the man, and drew him close. That is Jesus. It’s what He has done for you and me…and it is what we ought to be doing for others.
And let’s remember this:
“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2