Last week, we finished our series on the Lord’s Prayer and our time of fasting together as a community. There are so many stories coming out of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, but how do we know if it really “worked?” Are the 21 days only a success if we got the result we wanted? Or is there a different way to measure what it means to be in tune with Jesus and living according to the Lord’s Prayer?
Read Luke 19.1–10.
Zacchaeus’ story is an awesome picture of Jesus’ radical acceptance. In the first century, tax collectors were looked down on, especially by religious leaders. By choosing to share a meal with Zacchaeus, Jesus shows radical grace, compassion, and acceptance to the person in the crowd who needed it the most. And Zacchaeus’ response to this grace and compassion is something we can all learn from.
There’s an undeniable connection between experiencing God’s grace and extending compassion. The moment that Jesus accepted Zacchaeus, his immediate response was to right injustice and show compassion to the poor. Something changed in Zacchaeus’ heart when he experienced salvation and an unconditional love that he did nothing to earn, and because of it he felt differently toward the people he saw that were struggling or in a hurting place.
Zacchaeus’ story isn’t the only time this connection between receiving salvation and extending compassion is highlighted in the Bible.
Read 2 Corinthians 8.7–9.
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul is making the point that we, too, were once in a place of spiritual poverty—we were like Zacchaeus. But Jesus, who is rich in every way, gave up all of His riches to die on the cross for us so that we no longer have to live in spiritual poverty. And this should motivate us to extend compassion to those who we see that are in poverty, whether spiritual or material.
There’s another place in the Bible where this connection between grace and compassion appears.
Read Isaiah 58.5–7.
God makes it pretty clear here that if our faith and salvation aren’t coupled with doing justice and extending compassion, something is wrong. So going back to the question of whether or not 21 Days was a “success,” we can see that the truest mark of a “successful” life of a follower of Jesus is a life that’s more inclined to show compassion to the poor and suffering.
Sometimes it can be easy for us to know that compassion is important, but harder for us to feel truly burdened by needs and the suffering of others. In those times, there are two things we can do to develop a heart that’s burdened by injustice and the need for compassion.
- Spend time meditating on the gospel. Think about the start of your heart before you received salvation, and reflect on how much Jesus gave up for you when you were in a place of spiritual poverty.
- Get up close and personal with need. It’s hard to feel burdened by something that you don’t see closely, so spend some time interacting with poverty. Whether it’s volunteering with local organizations or going on an international missions trip, seeing need on a personal level makes it much easier to feel burdened to extend compassion to those in need.
Question: What is the biggest obstacle you face in feeling a burden to extend compassion to those in need? What steps can you take to overcome that obstacle?
It’s definitely important that we understand the need to extend compassion once we’ve experienced grace, but it’s also important that we go about extending compassion in a biblical way. Luckily, the Bible has a lot to say about how we practice compassion.
Read Matthew 14.16–18.
When they were faced with the challenge of feeding a massive crowd, Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to somehow come up with enough food to feed 5,000 people. Instead, He told them to give what they had. It can be easy to be overwhelmed by the need and poverty we see all around us. It’s easy to think that we could never make a difference because we’re only one person with limited resources and a few gifts. But God is simply calling us to give what we have. Just like He used five loaves and two fish to feed 5,000 people, He’ll reward our willingness to give our resources and time by giving them a greater impact for the kingdom.
Question: What are your “5 loaves and 2 fish?” In other words, what are the things you have that God’s calling you to use to extend compassion?
The other thing that it’s important to know about how we extend compassion is how often we’re called to do it. In Galatians 2.10, the leaders of the church ask Paul one very specific thing before he leaves on his mission to plant churches: that he remember the poor. And the Greek word that’s used for “remember” here isn’t just a “once in awhile”. It means an ongoing, ever-present reality.
What this tells us is that, for followers of Jesus, extending compassion goes beyond something that we do sporadically. Instead, it should be something that’s woven into the everyday rhythm of our lives.
Question: In what ways can you make compassion an everyday part of your life? Ask God to show you ways to extend compassion on a regular basis.
The Bible also tells us a lot about the outcomes of living a compassionate life. So often we think of compassion as a one-way street: we extend compassion and change the lives of the people we’re coming alongside. It’s all about what we’re doing for other people. But that’s not what the Bible tells us is true of compassion and the outcomes of a compassionate life.
Read 2 Corinthians 9.6–11.
If there’s one thing that Paul makes clear in these verses, it’s that compassion is a two-way street and a path of mutual blessing. And that blessing can come in many different forms like financial blessing, gaining wisdom, and developing a deeper and more significant relationship with God.
The other outcome of living a compassionate life is that it is an incredibly powerful way to point people towards God. At the end of verse 11, Paul tells the Corinthians that their generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. In Matthew 5.16, Jesus tells us to let our light shine so that God would be glorified.
Living a compassionate life is one of the most important ways to point people towards a relationship with God; it’s hard to argue with acts of love.