When another envelope or email lands reporting a crisis and inviting money to help, each time I wrestle – ‘Do I give to this one, or that? Do I give this time, or not?’ Sure, I give. Although those who will receive it are strangers to me, there’s plenty of call in God’s Word to provide for people we will never meet (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:1-3).
But there’s something different about providing for the needs of those who aren’t strangers, but friends. When a friend is in trouble, you really want to help. It’s not a burden on your conscience, it’s just wanting to bless a person you’re invested in.
In 2 Kings 4, Elisha meets a woman whose family welcomes him in, offers him hospitality, and shares life with him whenever he’s in the area. The family is (surprisingly in the circumstances) blessed with a child. But then the worst happens. The child dies. His mother reaches out to Elisha – the man of God, yes, but also her friend. And as Elisha sees their envoy coming. Immediately his mind turns to his friend – ‘Is she okay? Is her husband alright? Their child?…’
As the story unfolds, you see Elisha racing, heart pounding, pouring himself out in as many ways as he can to get there, get alongside and make a difference. There’s a happy ending to the story. The child is raised to life! Because it’s within Elisha’s God-given power to meet that need. And it’s in Elisha’s God-moulded heart to do that for his friend.
Our church has been going through Luke’s gospel for a while now. And you can’t read Luke without hearing loud and clear that Jesus is friend to the poor. The forgotten and undervalued. Those without voices and without choices. What we’ve learned this last week is that Jesus calls us to make friends with the poor too (which is always a challenge to a basically middle class suburban church).
In Luke 16:9, Jesus says: ‘I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, they will welcome you into homes that will last forever.’ It doesn’t take much reading around that (admittedly strange) passage to find that the friends doing the eternal welcoming are the poor (have a look at the story of the rich man and Lazarus that follows it).
What does all of that mean for our projects? Those that ‘meet identified needs in the community’ in the way that Jesus called His people to do will be those who don’t just offer money and resources to those in need in their communities, but also friendship. Deliberately seeking friendship with those whom we discover to be in need is more costly – in time, in emotion and in vulnerability, and perhaps in pounds and pence too. But it is also more rewarding – in relationship, in learning, in becoming more like Jesus, and if I’m right about what Jesus is saying in Luke 16, in eternity too!
How can we encourage people associated with our projects to go beyond ‘here’s some money for it’ and enter into ‘who is this helping? How can I get to know them? How can I offer them hospitality and see where it goes?’ The great thing about friendship is, it’s never just the other person who receives from you – you receive rich blessings from them too (just ask Elisha).
About the Author
Rev Scott McRoberts is minister at Inverness: St. Columba (New Charge Development).
The church received a Go For It Main Grant to decrease isolation among parents of young children, through their Connections project, which provides Groups to enable parents and young children to increase their social connections and confidence in parenting, and explore Christianity in a meaningful way.
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