When it comes to our relationship with God, we often get told to read our Bible, to pray, and to worship in private. These are all good and very important. But never/rarely has a preacher or accountability partner said to me, ‘How much time have you spent serving the poor this week?’ Doing this is part of relating to God himself.
I’ve always been someone who’s struggled to keep a constant prayer life. I often go through times when it’s frequent and comes naturally. Then there are other times when it’s more hard work.
I find it easier to read my Bible and do a personal study, but this goes through the same highs and lows as well.
Finding God In Prayer and In People
In lots of talks, through Christian friends, in various groups, and in various ways, I’m constantly challenged to pray more. To read my Bible more. I often feel a mixture of guilt and inspiration at these points, but it’s important to hear and strive towards. (Read Guilt Is Individual, Shame Is Relational).
Why is knowing God reduced to reading and gaining more information?
It’s important because we need to spend time with God and get to know him better. He’s a God who wants to relate to us. He brings us into his family and calls us friend. However, something that isn’t said enough is that this isn’t the only way to relate to God.
Jesus seems to very clearly teach that spending time with the poor, the outsiders, and those who need help, is part of meeting with God and relating to him. So why don’t I seem to get challenged to do that more? Why is knowing God reduced to reading and gaining more information?
The Sheep And The Goats
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus talks about the sheep and goats. In this story the sheep are ultimately welcomed into his kingdom (v33-34). They know God and are known to him. This is rooted in the fact that they looked after the poor, the needy, and those who needed help (v35-36).
The goats, however, are ultimately turned away and rejected because they didn’t do these things. (v42-43).
This always scares me because both groups say they knew God and they both call him Lord (V37, 44). In other words, both groups are believers. But the goats are turned away because they did not help the poor.
We Need Both
I sometimes feel like, if I told a group of Christian that I haven’t prayed, sung worship songs or touched my Bible (app) all week, but I helped serve in a soup kitchen all day every day and visited people in prison, they would feel slightly uneasy.
In Matthew 25, meeting with God happens as we meet the poor
Yet if it was the other way round, and I said I was praying for ten hours every day, reading my Bible and singing God’s praises, but walked past a homeless person each day, then there would be less of a problem.
Now, I’m not saying we should only serve the poor and not open up our Bible (apps). But Jesus, in his actions and in his words, challenges, inspires and commands us to serve the poor. This isn’t an added extra, it’s part of knowing and meeting with God.
Our relationship with God must also involve serving and helping those who need help
In Matthew 25, meeting with God happens as we meet the poor.
Our relationship with God must involve prayer and reading our Bible. Yet our relationship with God must also involve serving and helping those who need help. It’s not an added extra thing we do between prayer times.
It’s worth remembering as we think about relationships and how we improve our vertical relationship with God, when we feel we’re just going through the motions, feel like something is missing, maybe we are missing an important element. (Read The Cross Deals With More Than Just Forgiveness, Right?)
Imagine if we put lots of time into reading our Bible, worshipping God, and going out of our way to serving the poor and people who need help.
This week, what is the one thing you can do to help those who are hungry, thirsty, lonely, lacking clothes, ill, in prison, or needing help?
Do you hear enough emphasis on serving the poor in your context? Comments welcome below.