My favorite online devotion recently had a reflection on the passage from Matthew where Jesus states that the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few, “therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:37-38). The devotion was titled “Compassionate Living,” where the author noted that this passage shows Jesus’ ability to recognize need in others and offer compassion.
The author continued:
The needs of God’s people are so great. Daily we hear stories of illness, unemployment, family struggles, political unrest, discrimination, poverty, war, and natural disasters. Certainly we cannot act on each need. But if we use the gifts and abilities that God has given us to respond as best we can to the needs we see, then we live Jesus’ message of compassion. That is the Body of Christ at work in the world.
“The needs of God’s people are so great” … that we feel we cannot even begin to know what to do. We are overwhelmed by news reports in our nation and around the world of human pain and suffering. We may be able to offer a few dollars to an aid relief agency, but it will not be enough. We may pray, but for what exactly do we pray? The needs are so great, where does one begin?
The devotional author reminds us that “we cannot act on each need” …but we can act on the needs we see, with the gifts and abilities God gave us. There are many things we cannot do but there are also many things we can do. The other day I helped a friend set up her laptop computer. It was a small task that doesn’t seem like much. However, she lives in South Africa and is tasked with rebuilding a seminary that has been closed for eight years. Buildings are in disarray and there are no desks for the students. The laptop will be used at the seminary for teaching and educating pastors for years to come.
Today I helped my sister unload hay bales for her horses. It is another small task that doesn’t seem like much. Two weeks ago, her husband underwent a sudden triple bypass heart surgery after a total blockage of the main artery to the heart was discovered during an angiogram. Now he is on the long road to recovery and will not be able to work his job, let alone care for the horses, for many weeks.
Each day we can act on needs we see around us and offer compassion to others often in small yet meaningful ways. One doesn’t need to be an ordained pastor to listen to someone who needs someone to hear and notice them. One doesn’t need to be a deeply spiritual person to pray and care for people. Jesus embodied God’s love by reaching out to people in need, noticing them, listening to them, and ultimately healing them.
We are invited to live Jesus’ message of compassion where we are and with people who are around us, in our families, in our faith communities, in our places of employment, and in our communities. It may not seem like much, but God has given us gifts and abilities, and when we use them, we can make a difference in the lives of others. We all have something to offer.
If you are curious to learn more on how to embody Jesus’ compassion to others, I invite you to consider the Faith+Lead course “Embodying Thoughts and Prayers: Providing Spiritual Care and Comfort.” You will gain understanding of how Jesus embodies God’s care, expand your ability to determine basic human needs in your community, meditate on the comfort Jesus gives, learn techniques for deep listening, develop your ability to listen to God, and prepare to provide care to those who are in difficult situations.
You can live Jesus’ message of compassion.