This morning I preached on Isaiah 58, in which God challenges the double standards of his people. Though that wasn’t my major point: I focussed on the call to care for the needy, and it’s resonance with history and present for The Salvation Army.Apparently I got quite passionate.
I had originally typed up something far more tame, though doubtless meaningful. But last night we watched again the movie Pay it Forward. New social studies teacher challenges the 7th grade to come up with an idea that may make the world a better place. Young Trevor McKinney suggests doing three big favours for three people: it’s got to be hard and something they can’t do for themselves.
his class think it’s too utopian, but he goes ahead anyway. The movie is the story of his personal struggle to help people, and the “movement” that begins when his Mom pays it forward to her Mom.
The danger in doing good is that we expect something in return. In the church, we may expect “support” for our ventures, or that the recipient would start attending. But we are warned against that in the Bible. Isaiah says we should spend [ourselves] on behalf of the hungry – the concept of Self-Denial practised by early Salvationists. And Jesus said our reward comes from loving with no expectation of return.
That’s the challenge of Pay it Forward. it may be true that “what goes around comes around” – that we will receive a reward for our good deeds. But it rarely comes from the person we helped. More often it happens because others see what we’ve done; or even because we become more open to receive grace from someone else.
In his TV interview, Trevor says “you have to watch people more.” The call of Jesus is to be aware of people and respond to their needs spontaneously, out of love and compassion. And if we all did that, what a better place the world would be.