It seems that everywhere I turn there are needs. A need for grace… a need for healing… a need for hope.
From marathon bombings to school bullying, from financial strain to relational drain… the needs are plentiful. It’s more than I can fix. You too, eh?
So we turn to organizations, mostly governmental these days. There are:
- Agencies to prevent bombings
- Programs to prevent bullying
- Bailouts for bankruptcy
The needs are many, but those working to do something about them are few. Why are there so few workers?
A 2,000 Year Old Observation
Jesus observed the same problems almost 2,000 years ago. The stage is set in Matthew as Jesus is traveling throughout the land, finding need after need, and meeting them all with compassion.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:36 NLT)
This is my first “Aha!” moment: when Jesus sees these needs, he looks beyond the need to the cause... and the cause fuels his compassion and response. In other words, Jesus wouldn’t just see a bully… he would see someone who was confused. Jesus wouldn’t just see someone trying to skate out of financial burden, he would see someone who was helpless… needing guidance.
The kind of guidance a Shepherd would give to a flock of sheep: caring, nurturing, nourishing, protecting. In the case of humans: teaching, guiding, encouraging, and protecting.
If we are to make an impact, the world needs more Shepherds! Jesus says it this way:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” (Matt 9:37–38 NLT)
It seems so simple: we need more workers. But as I look at our situation almost 2,000 years later, the question still remains:
Why Are There So Few Workers?
In the context of the passage, Jesus is talking about the need for disciples. I’m not talking people who have been saved… people who can quote scripture… or people with good intentions.
I’m talking disciples. Committed to becoming just like The Great Shepherd… willing to pay the price of following after counting the cost of dying to self and living through Christ.
It’s something like the making of bacon and eggs for breakfast:
- The chicken was involved
- The pig was committed!
No wonder there are so few workers! Give up my independence? Die to self? The faint-hearted (or self-centered) need not apply.
So, how do we determine whether we’re one of the few? I recommend asking yourself this question:
Why Do You “Follow” Jesus?
In simplest terms, I believe there are two kinds of followers: people either follow to get… or to give.
1. Follow to Get
These folks follow out of self-focused motive. In short they want something from following Jesus. Perhaps they’re curious and want to see a miracle. Perhaps they’re hungry and want someone to feed them. Perhaps Jesus just happens to provide a source of great entertainment.
I think we’d find these motives in the crowds that followed Jesus as he traveled the countryside.
And I’ll bet we’ll find them today as well. Church provides some great entertainment (as long as the music is good and the preacher tells good stories). Some seek miraculous healing, but if it happens, they quickly abandon Jesus. And people still want someone to feed them; some literally, some spiritually.
But let me point out a subtle difference: there’s a huge difference between these folks and the second type. These are the folks who…
2. Follow to Give
It’s OK for church to be entertaining and of good quality, but that’s not the goal. We meet to give honor and praise where it’s due: to God alone. We meet to encourage one another and spur each other on to live out our faith.
There’s a big difference between one who gets healed and drops off the radar and one who gets healed and sings God’s praises and tells God’s story. In fact, there’s an even bigger difference in one who doesn’t get healed, yet sings God’s praises and tells God’s story!
And there are always those who want someone to feed them. But there’s a big difference between always wanting to be fed and learning to feed ourselves and others so we can become those Shepherds who provide guidance and encouragement.
These are the ones who follow to give… to God, and to each other. These are the ones who will see the plentiful harvest Jesus talked about. And these… are few.
Are you one of these few?
How can you move from following to get, towards following to give? What holds you back from being a follower who gives? What can you start doing today, to become a follower who gives?