The most common greeting when we meet someone is to say, “How are you?”

It is thoughtful to inquire about the welfare of others, but most who ask, “How are you?” don’t really want to hear about your troubles. Someone once said, “Don’t tell people how you really are — most people could not care less and the others are glad of it.” Unfortunately, this is usually true. Few people really do want to know how we are when they ask us this question. Just try telling a waitress or a store clerk who asks, “How are you?” about your headache or backache. They truly could not care less. We ought to be interested in the welfare of others.

Paul said, “I have no one else like him (Timothy), who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ”. We should be different. We really do need to have a caring attitude for the welfare of others. The apostle John admonishes, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?”. We are told to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves, but, unfortunately, as Paul said, most people are only looking out for their own interests.

The Lord Jesus was constantly thinking of others instead of himself. When he had not eaten for forty days and forty nights, he refused to do a miracle to feed himself, yet when he knew that the multitude following him was hungry, he was concerned that they might faint, and he did a miracle to feed them. We repeatedly read how Jesus was filled with compassion: “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd”; “And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them; and he healed their sick”; “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him”; “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said unto him, I will; be thou clean”; “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not”.

Even in his parables Jesus talked about having compassion for others: “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt”. In the parable of the good Samaritan we hear Jesus telling us, “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him”. We remember that at the end of the story Jesus asked the question,“Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”. The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him”. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”. Certainly, this answer is for us as well. We are to go and do likewise. We are to go and show compassion for others just as Jesus did in his life and as he taught us in his parables.

So, when we ask someone, “How are you?” we need to listen, we need to care, and we need to help if there is anything that we can do for them. Many folks in need are crying out for help and no one listens. After all, as Paul said, most people are too busy looking after their own interests and cannot be bothered by other people’s troubles or problems.

James tells us that it is no use telling others to be warm and well fed and then not helping them. James explained,“And (if) one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; not withstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?”.

So when we ask people, “How are you?” — do we care? Are we willing to listen to their tale of woe? Are we ready to give a helping hand to those in need? Let us keep on using the friendly greeting but let us resolve to mean it when we ask and be filled with compassion towards people when they answer. Jesus did. He told us to go and do likewise.