“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’” (Leviticus 23:22)
The magnitude of the global refugee crisis is mind boggling. The number of refugees and internally displaced now stands at more than 65 million, the largest figure ever recorded. Half are children. In Syria alone, an estimated 12 million people have been uprooted by the conflict since 2011, including registered refugees and the internally displaced, representing more than half of the pre-war population of the country! (source: www.crisisgroup.org)
Thoughtful, sincere disciples of Christ can hold very different opinions on the right macro strategy and governmental policies to address this crisis. What we cannot differ on is our conviction that we must individually DO SOMETHING for the “poor and the foreigners residing among us”. (And, given how much “smaller” and interconnected the world has become since Scripture was written, I would argue that the boundaries of “residing among us” easily extend beyond our nation’s borders.)
As an individual, I can’t solve this problem. In fact, I can’t even make a dent in it. But God’s not asking me to. Instead, He is clearly asking me to open my eyes to this suffering and take action.
It’s worth noting that at least part of the solution for this suffering that God provides for in His commandment (through Moses in Leviticus) is to give the poor and the foreigner an opportunity to work to meet their needs. I find it interesting that God didn’t say, “Harvest everything and then give some to the poor.” Instead, He seems to be telling us, “Don’t just feed them – provide for them the means to live with dignity.”
Mark and I had the opportunity to participate in a World Vision conference recently. Rich Stearns, the President of World Vision US, gave a short but compelling talk on exactly why we, as followers of Jesus, are called to serve the poor and the foreigner. He called it “Matthew Math”, and the formula was simple:
Matthew 25 + Matthew 28 = Matthew 5
The parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25 (verses 31-46) makes clear our call to serve the poor and the “stranger”. The “Great Commission” in Matthew 28 (verses 16-20) makes clear our Lord’s commandment to share the good news with all people, “making disciples of all nations”.
And then Matthew 5 (verses 14-16) tells us, in Jesus’ own words, how these two commandments work together:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
In other words, the gospel message is illuminated in our acts of mercy to the most vulnerable. That is why the Great Commandment precedes – and in fact, is the catalyst to – the Great Commission. In Matthew 22 (verses 36-40), Jesus is asked which is the greatest commandment in the Law. He replies:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Without showing this love, we cannot fulfill Jesus’ final commandment to make disciples of the nations.
What is God calling you to DO today, this month, this year, to put the Matthew Math formula to work?