What Do You Have?

Posted on January 20, 2012 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

“But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”–1 John 3:17

This is a verse I find myself wishing God had never inspired to be included in His Holy Word, because every time I read it, it pierces my heart with conviction. Although it closes with a question, it actually confronts us with four questions. The first, “What do you have?”

We may not feel that we are wealthy or affluent. We may have trouble extending our paycheck to cover expenses to the end of each month. The economic recession may have reduced our investments or resulted in having to adopt a more austere lifestyle. But to be honest, we, indeed, have this world’s goods. God has blessed us and prospered us as Americans with an abundance of material things and all that we need to make life comfortable. Few of us ever have to be concerned about clothes to wear, food to eat and a roof over our head like many people throughout the world.

The second question is, “What do you see? Do you see your brother in need?” That’s not a reference to blood relatives but to our fellow human brothers who are less fortunate than we. I naturally think of the homeless in the inner city, or the jobless veteran at a traffic intersection with a sign: “Food for Work.” Certainly God wants us to minister to them and reach out to those in need. But what greater need does our brother  have, whether in the ghettos of our town or in Africa, Asia or Latin America, than the need for Jesus? Do we see their lostness and their need for the salvation that we are blessed to enjoy?

The third question is implied: “What do you give? How do you respond?” Seeing others in need, whether of food and humanitarian assistance or spiritual witness, what do you do about it? Do we realize what we have is because of God’s grace and goodness toward us, and that He has blessed us to be a blessing to others? Or do we, as the Scripture indicates, close our hearts against him? Some translations say, “close our heart of compassion toward him.” Too often our lives are not a channel of love and compassion, but in pride and selfishness we allow our hearts to become hardened and calloused. We often excuse ourselves of any responsibility, justifying our indifference by blaming the needy for their laziness or receiving the just consequences for reprobate lives.

What do you have? What do you see? What do you give? They are all answered by the fourth question–How much do you love? The conclusion is not so much a reflection of our character and attitude as it is our relationship with God. God is love, and He wants our lives to be a channel of His love to others. That channel of love and compassion is opened by our love for God. We recognize that all that we are and have is because we are undeserving recipients of His grace and mercy. If we love God, our lives will be a receptacle of God’s love that is constantly overflowing through manifestations of love, ministry and witness to those in need around us and throughout the world. To the contrary, how can we be blind and indifferent to those in need and claim the love of God is within us?

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