Ministering to spiritual and material needs
The Lord Jesus tells you that you are to minister to those who need help. You are to be concerned first of all about spiritual needs. Notice Paul’s concern for the spiritual needs of others:
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation” (Romans 10:1).
“Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
You are also to be concerned about the material needs of people. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus described the day when all nations shall be gathered and separated as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. While this passage has a prophetic significance, it also has a practical, spiritual lesson for you. When you stand before “the judgment seat of Christ” to receive your reward, one criterion that will be used is your history of visiting those sick and in prison and giving them meat, drink, and clothing. This you are to do as unto the Lord.
Such service to others must be in combination with the proper attitude, as described by Paul: “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). Paul then continues in verses 4-8 to describe a better attitude. Your generosity in giving material help to others will surely benefit them; but whether your deed will benefit you depends upon the spirit in which it is given.
Recently the author of this lesson was a speaker at a ministerial meeting. Afterward it was necessary for him to go to Midway Airport in Chicago. As he was calling a cab, a minister who was in attendance offered to take him to the airport. The ride took an hour through heavy traffic, and this man went far out of his way to do this favor. When he was thanked for this sacrificial deed, his reply was: “You needed transportation; I was able to meet your need, and happy to do so.” What a refreshing experience! We like to receive such generosity from others.
The time comes in everyone’s life, however, when he will be subject to evil treatment. What will your reaction be under such circumstances? To illustrate, a woman speaks of being neglected by her husband. He refused to share in the rearing of the children; he refused to go to church with her; he refused to supply adequate furniture for the house; he spent many nights away from home. In return she refused to cook breakfast for him, refused to visit his relatives, refused to entertain his friends. He agreed that all she said about him was true; but if she would not meet him part way in some of these differences, he would continue treating her as he had been doing. The wife insisted that it was up to him to make the first move.
Such a relationship develops when two people violate the principles of Christian living. Paul says:
“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:17-19).
Another woman tells of her life with her husband. He came home drunk night after night. At times he would beat her. They quarreled constantly over the training of their child. They quarreled over the use of the car. They quarreled over how to spend the money, over the type of entertainment, over religion. In a moment of remorse he would buy her jewelry and clothing as a peace offering, but in her anger she would refuse to wear these things.
Over a period of time this woman saw her need of the Savior. She needed God’s strength if she was to have the attitude that Jesus taught one must have in a situation like hers. She cried out to God for strength to react as she should toward her husband. She ceased resisting him and did everything she could to please him. Soon she discovered that she enjoyed trying to please him and that she did it because she wanted to do it. Her husband’s behavior has not changed. She is not treating him well in order to change him but to be an example to him, so that he may see the reality of Christianity and desire it for himself.