After all, we are all unrighteous.
| posted 3/22/2011
Our Response Reveals Our Spiritual Condition
There are several places in Scripture we could look to see this call, but recently I found it in an unexpected place—the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Currently preaching through Genesis, I was surprised to find even in a story full of hellfire and brimstone God's heart for the unrighteous poor.
Almost everyone is familiar with this story of God raining down judgment on these cities because of their wickedness. And most people assume that the sin for which Sodom was judged was sexual immorality. This is certainly how I heard this passage taught when I was younger. But the prophet Ezekiel tells us otherwise. Ezekiel 16:49 says, "This was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy." Sodom was judged for pride, living a life of ease, and neglecting the poor and needy—not simply for sexual sin. I don't know about you, but suddenly this story just became a little uncomfortable for me. Instead of casting judgment on the people of Sodom, I began to identify with them.
But how does this story give us our mandate to serve the unrighteous poor? The answer is that the neglected poor of Sodom were not considered by God to be righteous. This is why they too were judged. Remember, God told Abraham that he would spare the entire city if just 10 righteous people were to be found, but there were not even 10. They were all unrighteous—rich and poor alike. The sin of Sodom was their lack of concern for the unrighteous poor, and the result of this sin was God's judgment on both the rich and poor alike.
I have found that helping the unrighteous poor is perhaps also the best way to remind myself of the gospel by which I am saved. I did not receive mercy because I deserved it. Jesus Christ did not give his life for me because I was a good person. No, I was his enemy and full of sin when he died for me. I never did and never will earn his grace. Grace is always unmerited. So when I see how the unrighteous poor respond with bitterness to my acts of kindness, I am reminded of my own spiritual condition. Even now, I often fail to thank God for his continuous and abundant grace towards me. Thank God for the gospel by which I am being saved!
We must see our service to the poor through this gospel lens. Actually, our ability to help those who don't deserve it is an indicator as to whether or not we have actually received the mercy and grace of God ourselves. As Jesus says in Luke 6:32-33 and 35-36:
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same …. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and you reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.