God’s Word for such a time as this: Who is my neighbor?

One NCF local team is known for giving out copies of the old Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who. Maybe you can guess why. Seuss’ cartoon elephant noticed something no one else did. There were people no one else noticed … who were in danger. Horton vowed to protect them, to give them voice, and ultimately to save their lives.

Dr. Seuss was not a Christian, and we, unlike Horton, are not elephants. Still, the book makes an important point. Some of us have been given more power and influence than others, and it behooves us to use it to advocate for those who might be struggling to fight for themselves. In times of crisis, the sense of that responsibility is amplified.

Most NCF givers have recognized this already and have already been giving – many for a long time. But it can be good to go back and look at why.

We are called to bring light to places where people can’t see (Matthew 5:16), attention to the voices people can’t hear (Proverbs 31:8-9), justice to the people others oppress (Psalm 82:3), and – maybe most importantly right now – hope to the world in the name of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 3:15; Mark 16:15-16).

We are called to be like Horton, to be advocates. And no matter what in the jungle might stand in our way, we are to remain steadfast, unwavering, committed to the One who gives us strength and the people he loves on earth.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be required.

– Luke 12:48 NASB

The evidence in the Word

What does the Bible say about our mammoth opportunity to help others?

Jesus tells a story in Luke 10. Some people call it the parable of the “Good Samaritan,” but, if we don’t read slowly, we can miss the implications of this story. It isn’t only a message to remind us not to pass by someone on the side of the road, or a story written just to show Jesus’ disdain for our judgment of others. At least in part, this is a story about a man who came to Jesus trying to determine who he was obligated to help, in order to do the minimum required to gain eternal life. The Scripture puts it straight. He wanted to justify himself (verse 29).

But the story Jesus then tells him isn’t about who we are obligated to. It’s about the completely different way of seeing our neighbor we will need if we want to join Jesus on his mission to seek and save. Viewed from this perspective, now is a time ripe with opportunity.

So … who are our neighbors? Who are these vulnerable people, and what can we do for them?

We’ll let the Bible answer these questions. We encourage you not to pick and choose from the list below but to read it all slowly. Pray as you do, that God will make his heart, and yours, clear to you.

May the two be aligned as you read his Word.

  • Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2
  • For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. – 2 Corinthians 8:9
  • For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Galatians 5:14
  • We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. – Romans 15:1
  • For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10
  • [L]et your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16

The sick (those who need healing)

  • Heal the sick … and say to them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” – Luke 10:9

Maybe you are young and healthy. Could your first responsibility be to abide by instructions about social distancing, even though you don’t believe you will get sick? Or maybe God is calling you to take some precautions and step in to help where healing is happening. Whatever you do to serve the sick, do it in the name of the Lord, so they will know that the kingdom of God has come near them.

The poor (and homeless)

  • Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. – Romans 12:13
  • Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. – Proverbs 31:9

Many have lost jobs. Many others were already living on the margins. Some will lose their homes. What are some creative ways you can practice hospitality while keeping yourself and others healthy? What else is in our power to do?

Widows and orphans

  • Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27

NCF has many charities that support widows and orphans. Could this be how you help? Or maybe you find an elderly person near you who is in isolation and slip an encouraging note under the door or in the mailbox.

The oppressed (those in need of justice)

  • He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? – Micah 6:8
  • Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression … – Isaiah 1:17

In times of crisis, someone, some individual, some group of people, someone will undoubtedly be mistreated. Wherever it is within your power to bring justice, do it. Micah says God requires it.

Sojourners (immigrants and refugees)

  • You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself. – Leviticus 19:34

Each of us is called to obedience to God above all else (Matthew 6:33, 22:37-39), and Jesus says that when you show kindness to strangers you’re actually showing kindness to him. Look to find ways you can obey God’s Word to love the vulnerable people from foreign countries as yourself.

The persecuted and the prisoner

  • Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. – Hebrews 13:3

For some of us, this will mean continued involvement with prison ministries we support financially or as volunteers. Maybe others will feel God calling them to write letters to encourage prisoners and seek other creative ways to use what they have to help.

The hungry

  • If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness …. – Isaiah 58:10
  • Then the King will say to those on his right … “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” – Matthew 25:35

Some of NCF’s givers are very involved in helping food pantries. Maybe, for you, it’s not just a few cans. It’s a truck or a grant or something else. If God has put thoughts about helping the hungry on your mind, we encourage you to log in to your NCF Fund and check out some of the charities you can help.

And in the end ….

  • The king will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25:34-36
  • Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. – Matthew 25:40
  • For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. – Hebrews 6:10

Whether you make a grant or show up in person to serve, God will see the good you do in his name. As you seek to protect the vulnerable, become a voice for the helpless, or even save lives, we pray these verses will serve as encouragement to keep doing the good work you are doing or inspire you to a new work as God directs.

May God bless all of you who are serving the vulnerable and keep you safe and healthy to continue in the plans he has for you.

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