Generous People Give to People Who Are Different
May 13, 2020
When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum. At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death. When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave. So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,” they said, “for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.” Luke 7:1-5 NLT
In the day that Jesus was on the earth, Rome ruled that area of the world. Palestine, the place where Jesus lived, was a small section of land between two larger countries also ruled by Rome, Syria, and Egypt. Roman soldiers were an ordinary part of the landscape. The Jewish communities were supervised by the local high priest, but the Jewish people were all under the thumb of the Romans.
Understanding that helps us know why tax collectors like Zacchaeus and Matthew were particularly hated and scorned by the Jews. They were Jews who extracted high taxes from their countrymen to give to the Romans, and they were well paid for it. They could add their own “fee” as desired. When listing the worst people in society, they spoke of “taxpayers and sinners.” The Roman prefect over the area directed the high priest in areas that mattered to Rome. That was the relationship between Pilate and Caiaphas for about ten years before the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jews as a whole wanted out from under the grip of the pagan Romans, and the Romans considered the Jews an inferior species.
Easy to understand the uneasy relationship between the typical Jew and typical Roman, particularly a Roman with authority. But here’s a totally different situation. A Roman soldier has a slave he cares deeply about (that’s a remarkable statement in itself), and he asked some respected Jewish leaders to go to Jesus, the rabbi he had heard about who was able to heal, and ask Him to heal his servant. The Jewish leaders normally weren’t fond of Jesus either, so the situation has three totally different types of people.
The Jewish leaders went and earnestly asked Jesus to heal the servant, and they told Him why they were so interested. “If anyone deserves your help, he does. He loves the Jewish people and even built us a synagogue.” What?? Who does that? Who uses their resources to support and help people different than them? Sadly, far too few. We mostly invest our resources only in the people who are most like us and get our personal Good Housekeeping seal of approval. But sometimes we’re given opportunities to help people outside of our worldview. What if God is giving you an opportunity to make a forever difference in the life of someone or many someones who are different than you, people with whom you might disagree in numerous areas. Do our differences give us room to withhold the help they need?
Truly generous people don’t think so. Of course, your Spirit-led conscience has to guide you as to how and where to invest your resources. But it’s healthy and Christ-like to keep an open mind, to love as Jesus has loved you (HIS standard), and to genuinely consider the potential of various projects to accomplish something good and valuable, whether or not you agree with the person, and to imagine yourself being generous enough to help.
Guess what happened for this man? Jesus—who was well acquainted with all the disciples, and all the people we consider New Testament heroes—is recorded in verse 9 as being amazed and declaring that this man had more faith than anyone else He had met in Israel. How about you? Willingness to give to people who aren’t like us will grow our character and generosity—and you just might attract and amaze Jesus!
- Pray: God, show me if I immediately put up resistance because of my personal opinions and preferences of people when You might be wanting to use me. Help me love as You love, and give with a wise and generous spirit. I want You to be amazed as you see the growth in me. Amen.