Compassion: A Fourteen-day Journey #6


In Response to God’s Generosity

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Several psalms, like this one, praise God for his past generosity. Such psalms reminded the listeners of how lavishly God has blessed his people in spite of their historic disobedience. They remind us of how patient and persistent God has been, while assuring us of his future goodness. Beyond this, these psalms tell us how to practice generosity. How can we refuse to share with others when God has been so kind to his people–and to us? Even when other people are ungrateful and irresponsible, we are to look for opportunities to help them–just as we have been helped.

The reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) addresses this issue in “Concerning Christian Liberty,” his classic statement on the freedom the believer enjoys from the burden of the law and the anxiety of self reliance. He says:

Although the Christian is thus free from all works, he ought in this liberty to empty himself, take upon himself the form of a servant, be made in the likeness of men, be found in human form, and to serve, help, and in every way deal with his neighbor as he sees that God through Christ has dealt and still deals with him. This he should do freely, having regard for nothing but divine approval.

He ought to think: “Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true. Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with his inestimable riches? I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ.”

Behold, from faith thus flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful, willing, and free mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude, of praise or blame, of gain or loss. For a man does not serve that he may put men under obligations. He does not distinguish between friends and enemies or anticipate their thankfulness or unthankfulness, but he most freely and most willingly spends himself and all that he has, whether he wastes all on the thankless or whether he gains a reward.

We conclude, therefore, that a Christian lives not in himself, but in Christ and in his neighbor. Otherwise he is not a Christian. He lives in Christ through faith, in his neighbor through love. By faith he is caught up beyond himself into God. By love he descends beneath himself into he neighbor. Yet he always remains in God and in his love, as Christ says in John 1, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heavens open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Psalm 135:1-21 NKJV

Praise the Lord ! Praise the name of the Lord ; Praise Him, O you servants of the Lord ! You who stand in the house of the Lord , In the courts of the house of our God, Praise the Lord , for the Lord  is good; Sing praises to His name, for it  is pleasant. For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself, Israel for His special treasure. For I know that the Lord  is great, And our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases He does, In heaven and in earth, In the seas and in all deep places. He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries. He destroyed the firstborn of Egypt, Both of man and beast. He sent signs and wonders into the midst of you, O Egypt, Upon Pharaoh and all his servants. He defeated many nations And slew mighty kings— Sihon king of the Amorites, Og king of Bashan, And all the kingdoms of Canaan— And gave their land as a heritage, A heritage to Israel His people. Your name, O Lord , endures forever, Your fame, O Lord , throughout all generations. For the Lord will judge His people, And He will have compassion on His servants. The idols of the nations are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see; They have ears, but they do not hear; Nor is there any breath in their mouths. Those who make them are like them; So  is everyone who trusts in them. Bless the Lord , O house of Israel! Bless the Lord , O house of Aaron! Bless the Lord , O house of Levi! You who fear the Lord , bless the Lord ! Blessed be the Lord  out of Zion, Who dwells in Jerusalem! Praise the Lord !

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