When to help?
Published 5:40 am Sunday, September 29, 2019
By Timothy Johnson
The other day, I was with a group of ministers, and the conversation somehow turned to the times when people come to the church to ask for monetary help. We all had experiences with phone calls, visits, and surprising as it may seem, each of us has had someone come in interrupting church services to ask the church for help.
We all knew of those who would bounce from church to church, not attending, but asking; get a little money from each, then move on to the next county. Each of us had numerous stories.
A question came to mind, and I asked, “If someone had come along and helped the prodigal son, given him a couch to sleep on, a little bit of money, just until he could get back on his feet; would he have repented and gone back home?”
The opinion around the table was unanimous — no.
This conclusion poses a bit of a dilemma. The ultimate desired result is repentance that brings salvation (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25). But, God does also want us to be benevolent. Benevolence, however, in the case of the prodigal would have seen immediate help, but also would have produced an eternal disaster.
The prodigal did squander one-third of his daddy’s fortune on wine, woman, and song, but the guy was not lazy. He did get a job once the money was gone. The prodigal was not sitting there, waiting for someone else to take care of him. From the Biblical narrative, there is no indication when the prodigal’s bank account was empty; he was going around to his friends and acquaintances asking for a handout.
With a little bit of help, he would not have needed to eat pig slop. Eventually, he would have a place of his own, gone on to a better job, someone could witness the good their benevolence has done, and the prodigal would have gone to hell when he eventually died.
So where are we? There is a mandate from God for us to help when and where we can. We also have one of the most beloved stories in the Scripture, that ends in an eternal disaster is someone is kind.
Let us consider some things.
James 1:27, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Notice he mentions the fatherless & widows.
The fatherless & widow’s situation is not of their own doing, but the prodigal son was in the circumstance he was in because of his actions.
He needed to repent of what he’d done. The widow does not need to repent because her husband died.
The Bible tells us that Some are saved by compassion, some by fear (Jude 22-23).
The compassion of the father was a significant component in the repentance of the prodigal, but it wasn’t the compassion the father had toward his son, it was the compassion daddy showed toward his servants that got the man looking toward home. Luke 15:17-19, “And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”
David, for example, did not repent until the fear of God was put into him by Nathan (2 Sam 12:1-7).
What I’m getting at is, maybe why they are in the situation they are in should be considered before we lend a helping hand? The fatherless and widows are orphans and widowed through no fault of their own. The prodigal, on the other hand, squandered his money.
God sends us to help the orphans and widows; He sent a famine to help the prodigal.
One last thought, God knows everything. God, knowing if the prodigal received help the man would not repent. Therefore, God did not send anyone with a giving heart and the means to improve the prodigal’s situation. God acted in the best interest of the prodigal.
With that said, if God sends someone needing help our way; what should we do? God does know what is best for all persons in question.
Timothy Johnson is pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Kingman, Indiana. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sermons and archived Preacher’s Points can be found at www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com.