"Do not withhold good from those who deserve it when it's in your power to help them. If you can help your neighbor now, don't say, 'Come back tomorrow, and then I'll help you.'" – Proverbs 3:27-28 NLT
God has us on this planet for a reason. He could have taken us when He saved us, but instead, He chose to leave us here. Rather than some sort of sick joke, God has a purpose for our presence in this world. We are His ambassadors, His representatives, and we have the distinct privilege of acting as His hands and feet, making His love and mercy visible to all those around us. According to the apostle Paul, "God has given us this task of reconciling people to him" (2 Corinthians 5:18 NLT). Because of what God has graciously done for us through Christ, we should be ready and willing to share this message of hope with others. "So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, 'Come back to God!'" (2 Corinthians 5:20 NLT). But not only are we to tell people about the good news of Jesus Christ, we are to act as agents of His love and mercy to all those around us. And that means that we are not only to be ready to share the gospel, but we must be ready to meet needs. These verses in Proverbs are interesting. When they say, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it," it carries the idea of withholding something from the one to whom it belongs. In other words, you have something that belongs to someone else, and you run the risk of keeping it for yourself. God has given you the responsibility of stewarding something that He intended for you to give to someone else.
This makes me think about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Who is to be the beneficiary of this fruit? You and I? No. The fruit is intended for others. God does not produce patience in my life so that I might enjoy it for me. It is to be shared with those who try my patience. Self-control is not intended for my own benefit, but to bless those around me as I practice it. Each of these characteristics of the Spirit are given to us to share with others. In essence, they are the owners of it and we are simply giving them what is rightfully theirs.
Take it a step further. If God blesses us with material possessions or financial means, does He do so simply for our own good? I don't think so. He gives to us so that we might be able to give to others. Once again, He makes us stewards of His blessings so that we might be ready to share them with those we meet along the way. And according to Proverbs, we are to be ready to help immediately. We are not to delay or postpone our acts of goodness and generosity to another, more convenient time. We are to respond immediately. James gives us the same words of advice and reminds us that our actions are an expression of our faith. "What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, 'Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well'—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless." (James 2:14-17 NLT).
Our faith must have an expression. It must show up in our actions and attitudes towards others. Each day we are given opportunities by God to act as His agents, His instruments of change in the world. We are like vessels through which He pours out His love, mercy and grace to those in our sphere of influence. We are conduits carrying the love of God to those in need, and one of the best ways to help them to see God is for them to experience His love through us as we respond to their physical needs in a timely manner. Our faith must be actionable, our love must be tangible, so that God's presence might be palpable.
Father, through Your Holy Spirit, give me the sensitivity I need to know what I have that others need. Forgive me for selfishly keeping for myself what You intended for others. Help me see the needs of others more keenly and respond quickly. Amen