I read this headline on Yahoo News yesterday, “New ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet for special on hunger.” I was intrigued, so I checked it out. Here is the heart of the story:
Lily is a 7-year-old who talks to viewers about insecurity over whether her family will have enough to eat. The puppet goes to a pantry for food and also volunteers there.
I think this is actually pretty awesome. God has given me a heart for those less fortunate, and in the last year he has really set that heart on fire for the needy. It started when I read the book Radical by David Platt, and the flames exploded when I read The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Sterns (the president of WorldVision). A God keeps fanning the flames as I read through the Bible (it is an overwhelming theme). A kids show to help them understand what some people go through on a regular basis is a really good thing.
However, the more I thought about this the more something started to bother me. Why is Sesame Street doing a better job of inspiring compassion than the church?
I know, I know. Sesame Street has been trying to help students learn about life for a long time. And I know, the Church has been reaching out to the poor since the beginning. I agree to these sentiments. But…
I do believe that the Church has dropped the ball. If we are living out what the Bible (both Old and New Testaments…but especially the words of Jesus himself in the New), then we should own this issue. The Church should be looked to as the heart of compassion for the poor and needy, not Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch.
I know some churches are the exception to what I am saying, and I would hold mine out as one of those kind of churches. At the same time, I can’t remember the last sermon/teaching I heard on giving to the poor. When was the last time I was reminded that God’s focus has always been bent towards giving mercy to those who need it? Sure, we have our programs that urge us to reach out to others. We can bring money, school supplies, and shoeboxes full of Christmas…but when have I been last asked to leverage something in my life for the sake of the poor, hungry, orphans, widows, and prisoners?
What are our children learning about God’s heart for the needy? They are learning the Bible. Which is awesome. They are learning worship songs. That is great. But what are they learning about giving up things that they might like in order to sacrafice for the needy?
I think the Church may have dropped the ball a bit on this one, and a bunch of puppets have picked it up and are running with it.
I realize that I may have a bit of extreme bent and I am talking a bit tongue-in-cheek, but there are some serious things to consider here.
- Are we really living out God’s heart for mercy to the poor as the universal group of believers…and I am talking all of us, not small pockets and groups?
- Does the world look to the Church as the center of compassion and generousity?
- Are we leveraging anything in our lives for the sake of the poor and needy (both here and throughout the world)?
- Do we make daily decisions in my day-to-day life that affect the lives of anyone else in need?
- Do we teach our children the art of sacrafice for the sake of others?
I have to defer to Jesus himself here. The parable of the sheep and goats is often referred in these types of discussions, and rightly so. So I am going to go there. I am not going to quote the whole passage here, but go check out Matthew 25:31-46 really quick and come back.
Jesus is obviously talking about the final judgment. It is when he will come back and pretty much separate people based on if they are going to Heaven or Hell. And what is his standard? “For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.” Those on the “good side” asked when they did this, and Jesus said it is when they did these things for people in these circumstances.
What did Jesus hold against those not joining him in Paradise? Was it lust? Was it gluttony? Was it hatred? Homosexuality? Even murder? No. It was how they treated the “least of these.”
Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons. For I was hungry, and you didn’t feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn’t give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn’t invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn’t give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn’t visit me.’
Am I proposing that we get into Heaven by works? No, of course not! It is quite clear from the rest of the New Testament that it is by faith alone that we are saved and allowed to live in the presence of God. It is faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. However, our faith (and the Spirit living in us because of our faith) will show itself by what we do. It will show by where we spend our time. Where we spend our money. Where our heart is. In James 2:26 it is quite clear, “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”
I could go on, but I won’t. I think you catch what I am throwing at you. But where does that leave us? Where does this leave me?
There is a song by a band called Shaded Red. They have a song called “Revolution” that has a lyric singing to me as I write about this, “There is a revolution, it starts with me and ends at the back of the church.” I am going to have to close this by just dealing with me. You can deal with you. And then we can all deal with each other.
I can only quiz myself and do some reflection. What does my faith show? What are my works showing? Is my heart the same as God’s for the poor, widows, orphans, and prisoners? Do I leverage anything for the sake of the needy? Do I sacrafice anything in my daily life for the causes that hold people down? Do I teach my son to live a life of sacrafice for others? How will I do when I stand before Jesus and he is separating people? Am I a sheep or a goat?
Now what about you? How are you doing? Are you a sheep or a goat? Are you teaching your children about sacrafice for the sake of the needy?