I read a blog post entitled, The Failure of Mercy Ministry, and I was filled with grief and reminded of Matthew 25 about sheep and goats. If you want the source link, please ask me offline.
The blogger says this:
Everyone that Jesus fed, healed, or raised from the dead still died. And from now until the second coming, so will everyone who benefits from our mercy ministries. The point of Christians ministering to bodies, which will still succumb to death, is to give a picture, some small picture, of the healing to the soul that the Gospel offers. Jesus fed hungry people so that he could explain that he was the bread of life. He healed the blind so that he could explain what it meant to truly see. He raised the dead, so that he could explain how it was that he was the resurrection and the life. And we do the same with our mercy ministries. We minister to the body, so that we can create an opportunity to minister to the soul.
But that’s not what Jesus said:
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’(Matthew 25:41-45)
He said…because you didn’t take care of the people I love, you didn’t care for ME. The point of Christians doing mercy is to love and honor God. So how do we show our love for God? Jesus fed, healed, and raised people from the dead because He loved them and they were hungry, husbandless, thirsty, cold, shoeless, fatherless, and not because He needed an opportunity to get their attention. Is there a more tangible way to show your love for God than to feed and clothe Him? If Jesus asked me for a sandwich, I’d move mountains to make Him one and leave out the bit about His body eventually dying.
The blogger goes on to say this:
But the temptation is always there to begin to think that ministering to the body is more important and we forget about the soul. This happens when Christians begin to compromise their teaching of the Gospel in order to create or maintain opportunities to participate in mercy ministry. This happens when the preaching of the Gospel starts to disappear because of the threat that it poses to the efficiency of the mercy ministry.
Christ knows that if we say we believe, true faith will manifest itself in our actions. Mercy ministry is not a substitute for the Gospel, it’s simply the living proof that a living faith is present – it is the Gospel in action. Mercy ministry is true faith manifesting itself in the lives of believers, who understand the Grace of God and can’t keep themselves from loving the lost, widows, orphans, prisoners, and the weak. Justice isn’t a distraction.
What pleases the Lord? He’s shown us what is good and what He requires of us. Do justice—don’t just talk about it. Love kindness—and not just to people who look like you and who can afford to buy you dinner. Walk humbly—spend as much on other people as you spend on yourself, be willing to sacrifice until it hurts, and give every aspect of your being over to God.
The blogger finishes by saying:
If we put the Gospel in the back seat while we do mercy work, we have shifted to a health and wealth Gospel. We have decided that it is more important to fix peoples’ bodies than their souls. As my kindergarten teacher once wisely told me, “don’t do that.”
The guy misses the point of mercy work and, I fear, he will lead a multitude of people, if he hasn’t already, to live more like goats then sheep. Every piece of bread, every new well, every pair of pants, every visit to a prisoner and every rescued orphan, is centered on the person of the King. If you do mercy in connection with the King—you live out the Gospel to a world in need of Jesus. If you put the Gospel behind the wheel, then be prepared to stop frequently to feed homeless people.
If you’re giving people a meal so you can check a box and say your church does Mercy Ministry—and there’s no real love, passion, or understanding for why He asked you to do it—Christ would say, “Get away from me. I never knew you.”