Rationalizations and Faithfulness

Friends, I am increasingly convinced that the opposite of love is not hate. No, the opposite of love is apathy. We just don’t care. Or at least we don’t care enough to actually do anything about it. We don’t actually care enough to sacrifice anything for it. We just don’t care enough to weep over the things that break God’s heart.

I know all of the rationalizations. I have used most of them myself. It’s their problem. They made their bed, now they have to sleep in it. They didn’t do this, they didn’t do that. They were lazy, they were drug addled, they were self-abusive, they were all of those things. I have used all of these rationalizations in the past. And to these rationalizations, to me, and to others who just don’t care – who are not going to generate any compassion over those who are struggling in the midst of problems, self-generated or not – Matthew writes a devastating set of texts.

First, in Matthew 9, when the heart of Jesus aches over the sinful and broken of His day, Jesus laments, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.”  In their day, as in our own, the number of people who wept as Jesus wept were few and far between. In their day, as in our own, rationalizations carried the day. So the Laborers were, and continue to be, few.

Matthew 25 gives to us a painful consequence for those whose rationalizations for inaction are more persuasive than the example and command of Jesus. Notice in the long text that I read, Jesus didn’t ask about culpability. Jesus didn’t ask about bad choices. Jesus didn’t ask about laziness, a lack of ambition, or a willingness to take responsibility for one’s condition in life. Jesus didn’t even ask about the spiritual commitment of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, or the imprisoned. Jesus asks only one thing. Did you give them what they needed?

Jesus doesn’t ask about any kind of screening, any kind of litmus test that we might employ before we would feed, house, hunger, or visit. Jesus simply – but shockingly says – “as you did this to the least of these, you have done this to me.”

2 thoughts on “Rationalizations and Faithfulness

  1. At the risk of spending a ten-dollar word, this made me think about -why- we do acts that the prevailing culture regards as supererogatory. We don’t do it for “get out of hell free” cards, though many faiths including our own fall into that trap. I can only conclude that we do it because of who we are and Whose we are. And because we discipline our own spirits to where we can hear the voice of Jesus asking us to come alongside, every time we see another crying out for a handout or a hand up.

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    1. Hi cjr17, thanks for the note and the vocabulary lesson. I had to look up supererogatory to know that it means “going beyond the expectation.” Great word! Hopefully our acts are gifts of service and compassion, done as imitators of Christ, as an act of faith and obedience. I suspect this is what you mean when you say that we do things because of who we are and Whose we are. Guilt, and the desire to collect “get out of hell free cards” are self-serving acts of religiosity. Gifts of service are meant to be exactly that – gifts, with no thought of return.

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