For years now, I have listened to church leaders lament that our “help” to the poor creates dependency. Dependency. You would think that church leaders tending to Jesus’s flock would count that as a good thing. But no. Becoming dependent on Jesus – in their view – is a bad thing.
But listen to Jesus as he contrasts himself (the Good Shepherd) from the hired hands:
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd.
This is a picture of utter dependence, as I see it, and a contrast with hired hands who do not develop that kind of intimate relationship with the sheep. Thus I would say – based on biblical principles – it doesn’t look good in heaven for church leaders to lament the dependency that develops when we “help” the poor. And the idea that we might hurt them is ridiculous, while the idea that Jesus would lay down his life for them (be hurt on their behalf) appears to be purposeful.
I’m thinking my church leader friends have just blown it HUGE!
Look at the parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
The shepherd searches for the lost lamb. And let’s face it (in case you are unfamiliar with agriculture and sheep in particular, then this may be new for you), sheep are stupid animals. And… People are sheep. Sheep in need of a shepherd. And this shepherd leaves the 99 to seek out the one lost lamb!
When I read this passage while camping with the homeless in the cold, blustery wind out back of First Baptist or the downtown First United Methodist churches, I often think: Where are the shepherds from these churches? We are right here across the alley from their multimillion dollar facilities! We make it easy for them! They wouldn’t have to seek far!
Ahhh… A small step for geography, but a giant leap over contempt, I guess…
But then the shepherd in the parable puts the newly found lamb through a detox and job training program that takes six weeks.
Um… Oops. No. That’s not the shepherd in the parable; that’s the shepherds trying to not create dependency. Sorry. I got them confused for a moment there. No. The shepherd in the parable lifts the lamb up on his shoulders and carries it all the way back home and then throws a party! And that sounds like creating dependence by design in my Bible, according the biblical principles I see.
But let’s put that Luke 15 passage in it’s larger context, as long as we are talking about parties and contempt again.
Starting in Luke 14 (Go read it for yourself this time), Jesus challenges the way we go to and host parties. Chapter 14, much of it anyway, functions almost like a Heaven’s Guide to Party Throwing. You need to humble yourself as both guest or host, and when hosting you need to invite the bums! And so the first two verses of chapter 15 depict Jesus practicing what he preaches. He is partying with the bums and upsetting the “religious leaders” of his day (as we like to label them) who call him out for it.
This is what prompts the story of the lost sheep! It’s more about the party than the search for the lost lamb, but that in no way negates our present observations. And if you keep reading, you find he tells a story about a lost coin just after that, which also culminates in a party when the coin is found. But the real punchline is the next parable, one of the most famous parables in all of Scripture – the story of the lost boy (The Prodigal Son). And in THAT story, we find a boy completely undeserving of his father’s love come and ask for his inheritance even before the father dies. The son is full of contempt! And the father indulges the son! He gives it all to him. And the son squanders it in loose living and winds up homeless and destitute!
Is this starting to sound applicable???
The boy finally humbles himself and returns to the father to seek mercy, but he is thinking he might hire on as a servant in his father’s household – BASICALLY HE IS ONLY HOPING AGAINST HOPE THAT HIS FATHER WILL PUT HIM THROUGH A JOB TRAINING PROGRAM WHERE HE WILL TAKE THE LOWEST JOB THERE IS BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE BETTER THAN HIS PRESENT SITUATION.
And it would be better. A lot better. And a lot of church leaders would agree with that plan in theory! In fact, they wouldn’t want the father to go too easy on the kid because the kid needs to learn responsibility, and the value of a buck; he needs to learn independence and have dignity. But the father who indulged the kid to begin with sees the boy coming from a long way off and goes running to meet him in desperate passionate love! And he sends the servants to prepare a… PARTY…! Yes! There it is! The Party!
But there’s just one hitch: The kid, it turns out, has an older brother who chafes at the notion that his little brother would get a party for coming back home. And the older brother confronts the father in all his contempt for the love their father would show to this wayward kid! And so we finally see that Jesus is painting these “religious leaders” of his day into a corner with their own contempt because of their rebuttal at his having partied with the bums to begin like he said they should.
Am I getting through to you???
I have been telling you for years (scroll through the archives and see) that we need to party with the poor! That is your biblical principle. I have been calling you out for your contempt for the last several days. I learn this from Jesus.
I suggest you cut all this nonsense with the When Helping Hurts and Seeking Shalom garbage and get with Jesus! It’s not that far to go. It’s a small step for theology kind, but a giant leap for your contempt. But creating dependency is THE GOAL, not something to avoid.