Our Lord Jesus Christ, when speaking his closing words in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, exhorted his listeners (and us) to actually live the words that he had spoken. Matthew records the words, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (7:24).

Perhaps of all that Jesus said at that time, these are the most confronting words. So confronting were they that some of the disciples who went up the mountain with him, when they had heard these words, ended up walking away1. It was just too hard. They knew from this, that life in Christ meant ac­tion. This is something that disciples throughout the ages have grappled with and we are no different. To truly be a disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ we need to act on our faith, not just say we believe and treat it as an academic exercise, but actually DO something.

We sometimes shy away from talking about ‘works’ as a means to salvation, and rightly so, for it is by grace that we are saved. However, as the Apostle Paul points out, we are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). The Apostle James further elaborates that for our faith to be living, it must be seen in action (James 2:24). This inevitably leads us to the conclusion that our salvation, though unable to be earned, requires as a fundamental premise, action. In other words, we need to DO something.

So the burning question for us is, what are we ‘doing’ in response to our faith?

Isaiah’s Challenge to a Religious People

In Matthew 7, in the same context of ‘doing’, Jesus talks about us doing God’s will with a pure mo­tive (Matt 7:21-23) and in doing so, highlights to us not only what God’s will is but also gives some very practical pointers on how we can act in faith. In this passage, Jesus is alluding to Isaiah 58:4-8 where Isaiah confronts the self-righteous religious practices of Israel in that time. They were fasting, or doing acts of religion, with an impure motive. It was all for show. But what Isaiah also does in this passage is highlight to us just what kind of pure actions God wants to see. Isaiah asks, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (58:6-7).

It is quite clear from this passage that the actions God wants us to DO are actions of love towards others. With particular reference to Isaiah 58, those actions of love ought to be primarily towards those who are in need or going through trial. We must, of necessity, DO something and act in love towards people who have ‘heavy burdens’. These are people who are under oppression, who have lesser means than us and especially those who are going through trial, however varied they may be.

So important are these actions that Christ also refers to this passage at the end of his ministry. In Matthew 25:35-40 where he is exhorting about the judgment seat, those who are passed to his right will be those people who have this attitude of love being seen towards others. People who will be in the Kingdom are people who have DONE something in love with a pure motive: “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (v35-36).

The people that Christ is talking about here are people who have Done something. They are not people who have thought about it, not people who have good intentions, not people who have offered merely a statement of support (as in James 2:16). These are people who have physically Done something. They are people who have seen a need and acted. They have not procrastinated, they have not over-analysed the situation and given themselves reasons for why they’re not the best person to help, and they haven’t ignored the situation or made excuses because they don’t know what to say. They are people who have DONE something and subsequently will be in the Kingdom.

What we can do

If Jesus were to say these words to us today, in our 21st century society, would he say:

  • You saw that I had a mental illness and you phoned me to show you care
  • You saw that a family member was ill and you sent me a meal
  • You saw that I had lost my job and you bought groceries for me and my family
  • You saw that I was being persecuted online for my views and you sent me an SMS of support to show you love me
  • You saw that I was lonely and you invited me home for lunch
  • You saw that one of my family passed away and you came and did my housework?

We all know of people who are currently go­ing through trial. What have we DONE for those people? People who are in these situations need to know that others care. It is not enough for us to think that they know we care, they need to see it. And God wants us to show it.

We can all DO something when we see some­one in trial but the most important thing that we can do, and yet the most simple, is to pray. We know that prayer is powerful, but how much more pow­erful for the person going through trial when they know they’re being prayed about. Sometimes this may seem a little awkward, but for the person being prayed about, it can bring tremendous comfort to know that it’s not just his or her own prayers going to the Father but that others care a lot about them:

  • Send them a Facebook message letting them know they’re in our personal prayers
  • Mention them by name in ecclesial prayers – even if they’re in the audience
  • Have a special ecclesial prayer for the person, particularly if it’s a trial of major significance.

“Go, and Do Thou Likewise”

Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us many examples of caring for others but perhaps the most poignant is in the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ (Luke 10). We’re sometimes good at giving ourselves excuses as to why we should not help someone in need. Maybe the person has made some bad decisions and these are the consequences they now have to deal with, or perhaps we’re fed up with helping them, or even that this person just doesn’t listen to reason and so I’m going to teach them a lesson by not helping. In this parable, the Samaritan DOES something, no questions asked.

The Samaritan could have been cynical of the traveller, thinking him a fool for travelling this road alone, but he doesn’t. He sees the man’s des­perate need, and acts. No questions asked. This is the point that Jesus is driving home to the listeners: if you love, you’ll act.

This is a man who does something. No questions asked, no excuses given.

The Priest and Lawyer were as useful to the man left bloodied and beaten as the person who says “be warmed and filled” (James 2:16). They saw the need, and did nothing. The Samaritan on the other hand, being a good neighbour, sees the need and DOES something. This point is emphasized repeatedly throughout the parable:

  • He saw that the man was in trouble – so he went to him.
  • He saw the wounds – so he bound them up.
  • He sees the risk of infection – so he cleans the wounds
  • He saw the need for transportation – so he puts him on his own donkey
  • He sees that the man is in need of rest – so he takes him to the inn
  • He sees that the man needs further care – so he stays to care for him
  • He sees that the man has no money – so he pays for him

This is a man who Does something. No questions asked, no excuses given. And so we ask ourselves the question, how am I at Doing?

Perhaps in the past we have let things slide and not shown the love that we know we should have. If that is us, we’re certainly not alone. Sometimes our lives get very hectic and the good intentions and prick of conscience that we had initially get crowded out of our busy lives. The good news for us, if that’s the case, is that it’s never too late to start. We can always reach out and DO something in love today.

Good Intentions are Not Good Enough

The Corinthian ecclesia found itself in this pre­cise situation in caring for their poor brethren in Jerusalem. Their consciences were pricked, and their hearts went out to them when they first heard of their plight. They had every intention of taking up a collection but, in 12 months, they had done nothing. Paul then exhorts them to start now for it’s never too late to show love. In a lengthy appeal his advice to the Corinthians was, “this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have” (2 Cor 8:10-11).

It’s never too late for us to make that phone call, send that card, make that meal, send that SMS, visit that person. Though we may have neglected our responsibility in the past, we can certainly DO something now.

There are countless passages throughout Scripture that lead us to the conclusion that we must DO something in showing love to others as an outworking of our faith. We must love in deed and in truth, not in word only (1 John 3:17-18). If we do not do something when we see the need, to us it is sin (James 4:17). We should remember that the parable of the ‘Good Samaritan’ was given in direct response to the lawyer’s question of “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord was pointing out that, so serious were these issues, that what was at stake was eternal life (Luke 10:25).

As we pause and consider the significance of the memorial emblems, we picture our Lord Jesus Christ and the actions of love that he showed for others during his entire ministry. We marvel at the beauty of what he DID and we aim towards that same standard, for truly there can be no greater demonstration of that kind of love than in his laying down of his life for his friends. We can do likewise: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:12-14).

Footnotes

  1. Cp Matt 5:1 Disciples (Gk = Mathetes = a disciple); Matt 7:28 People (Gk = Ochlos = a rabble or throng)