As I walked my usual morning route, I could not help but notice by the appearance of my neighborhood, how many of my neighbors do not seem to value caring for their lawn and garden. My father and grandfather taught me the importance of mowing the lawn weekly, caring for the flowerbeds, removing weeds, sweeping, raking, etc. They showed me that there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from keeping your home and your property looking good.
While navigating past a heaping mess and nearly slipping on the wet lawn clippings a few times, I reminded myself that I need to keep my attention off of my neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. My first agenda should never be to try to make a person manage their lawn care better and I should not rush to judgment as I’m passing by the unkept property.
This reminded me of how we are in life at times with our “neighbors.” Remember, the Bible tells us that everyone is our neighbor. And we are to love everyone. Yet we spend a lot less time loving, and a lot more time focused on our neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. We look at our brothers and sisters in Christ and point out their flaws. We even look to those who have not yet come to know Jesus and point out their flaws too. It is easy to mention the overgrowth of weeds that has infiltrated someone’s life. We want to make every person our project. Then we put ourselves in charge of the “project” because we have such high opinions of ourselves and believe we have the true answer to make the person better. Sadly, we do this so regularly that we miss what needs addressed in our own lives. Plus, we look like a hypocritical proud Pharisee along the way.
Today, as you look to your brothers and sisters, and as you engage with “outsiders,” be reminded again of our true calling. We are to love God and love others. As my grandma would say, “Mind your own plate.” If we each would spend more time focused on our own shortcomings and more time asking God to pour out His grace upon us and allow Him to move in us and through us—if we would simply love, with no strings attached—the overgrowth of weeds would slowly change as His love and grace transforms. Imagine if we recognized our own shortcomings. Imagine if we saw each person as God sees them. Mind your own plate.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 [CSB]
In Exodus 23, we read a lot about the commands of the Lord. Some of the commands might seem foreign to us. Do you usually see a “donkey of someone who hates you (that) has collapsed under its load”? Most people do not even know someone who owns a donkey.
Even so, we can glean something from these commands. In today’s verse, we can note that in our culture today, this would be like seeing someone who hates you with a broken down car at the side of the road. Do you go on by or do you stop and help? Do you care?
I’ve been considering that question a lot lately. God wants us to care. If we love God, we should love people like He loves people. He commands it! If we have a heart for God, it is a heart that feels for others. If we don’t care, if we have a heart issue, that can be helped by the Holy Spirit. Allow the Spirit to work on you from the inside out. Pray about it. If you care for only some people, but there are others you disregard, there’s still a disconnect. The “stop and help” command does not change from one person to the next. Today, look inward. When you pass someone with a broken down donkey (or car), do you walk by?
“If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.” – Exodus 23:5 [NLT]
Many times we pick and choose who we want to show kindness. It is a lot easier that way. We don’t need to address any of our own personal issues when we desire to show love and kindness to a person. We can stay in our comfort zone. The problem is, we aren’t meant to stay in our comfort zone, and we are commanded to love everyone. This includes loving those who are not easy to love.
In Matthew 25, we read about the Sheep and the Goats, the final judgment. In Verse 35, Jesus begins to share that what we do for others we are doing for Him. When we feed someone who is hungry, we feed Him. When we give someone who is thirsty a drink, we are refreshing Him. When we clothe the naked, we are clothing Him. When we visit someone who is sick or in prison, we are visiting Him. This can be helpful to self-examination, to looking inward at our heart and checking our motives and our level of compassion.
It will always be easier to help someone who you know well, someone who is like you, someone you find comfortable. But we can never share the love of Christ with the world if we stay in our own little safety area. Don’t stay in the bubble this week. Say “hello” to someone new. Do something kind for a stranger. Share the love of Christ with those who come along your path.
“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’”- Matthew 25:45 [NASB]