A lot of awful things have occurred under the banner of compassion. Helping people is one of the practical ramifications of a heart made new through faith in Jesus Christ. The Scriptures indicate that Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38) and how so much of His ministry exemplified the heart of God to come to the aid of those who were struggling. He fed, He healed, He counseled, He forgave, He restored and He touched many lives. One would assume that we should always be looking for similar opportunities to connect with people whose lives are in some form of trouble. Here is the rub, however: Jesus is omniscient, perfectly discerning both what is happening on the outside of a person and what is taking place invisibly in their hearts and minds. Jesus did not help everyone all of the time. We need to consider that there are times that we need to be like Jesus as we choose not to rescue some from their dilemmas.
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Proverbs 14:12
This may not seem right and may not sound loving but I think it needs to be said: some people are bottomless pits and you will never pour enough into them to help them. Your compassion, love and mercy are commendable but there must come a time when you choose no longer to come to a particular person’s rescue. Why should this ever be considered? Because sometimes it is God who is bringing difficulty into that person’s life and your constant rescue is actually undermining the work that God employs to bring that person to their breaking point.
Your efforts seem like the proper thing but the end of your interaction with this person may actually be harming them. If the person you are seeking to rescue/assist/comfort is acting in ways that are ignorant/indifferent/rebellious toward God’s ways then you are actually doing them harm by making their wayward path easier for them to continue to travel. God brings people to their rock-bottoms sometimes before He chooses to send relief or deliverance. You and I can impede this process by alleviating pressures that God is actually ordaining in a person’s life. God allows them to go broke because of their foolish, undisciplined ways with money…and we write them a check to help. God allows them to struggle physically because of gluttony and, after they get home from the hospital…we bring them a comfort-casserole full of cheese and sausage. God allows a friend’s wife to kick him out of the house for being a sorry husband and father…and we invite them to stay on the couch at our place so they won’t shiver in the cold. As a pastor, I have witnessed scenes like this play out more times than I can count. We have to face the facts about certain people: they will gobble up our kindness like a starving dog, vomit it out somewhere else, and come back to us again for the next round as they have learned that we are always there to help.
It may have been the Apostle Paul who said, “Knock it off,” … it also may not have been Paul who said this. But it is still true for some of you. Knock…it…off.
If you have people in your life who are constantly appearing on your radar saying, “Help me. Rescue me. Take care of me. Protect me. Give me. Give me more. Give me more again”, then you need to wise up and recognize that they have discovered a system to exploit and are expertly using it to work you for their favor. Parents and grandparents, there comes a time when you have to let that child or grandchild stand or stumble on their own. You have to let go of their hand either way. Adult children of manipulative parents, when are you going to give yourself permission to no longer be controlled by mom or dad’s guilt-inducing methods? Pastors, when you help a person in the congregation multiple times in the same area while observing that their actions do not change, when will you recognize that some of those precious sheep are actually willful goats and need to be treated with a little more firmness and a lot less stroking?
These are days when all of us should consider how we are doing in this area. There is certainly a tension which exists between us being helpful versus us being harsh. I’m not advocating harshness but I certainly am calling us to a patient, deliberate assessment of whether or not we are assisting needy people or enabling wayward people. We really need to pray for daily discernment so we will know whom God is asking us to help AND whom God is commanding us not to help at all. Who among us would want to undermine the present work of God in someone’s life who He is intentionally breaking?
Jesus let the rich young ruler walk away (Mark 10:21-22). Jesus allowed Nicodemus to struggle with his theological misunderstandings (John 3:1-15). Jesus put Peter in his place when Peter was acting according to carnal ways rather than spiritual wisdom (Matthew 16:23). Jesus did not beg the crowds to stay when they migrated en masse away from Him after the tough sermon in John 6:53-67. Jesus let people walk away when they were determined to act independently of God.
Think about this: Jesus did not even chase down Judas in the hour of his betraying his Master, knowing that Judas would never recover. There is no getting around it – Jesus let some folks walk away and poured His best into those who hungered for Him. Consider today if you might need to become more like Jesus in this area. There is only one Savior for the wayward, stubborn, rebellious and indifferent…and that Savior is not you.
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