“Production and Perception - Seeing Needs and Meeting Opportunities”

Categories: Monday Morning Meditation

Yesterday we considered the parable of the 10 virgins (Matt. 25:1-12) and the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14—30). These parables fall within a larger context that we sometimes call the Olivet Discourse in which Jesus offers one of His final blacks of teaching to His disciples (Matt. 24:1-25:46). A major emphasis of this section is judgment, beginning with the judgment of Jerusalem and concluding ultimately with the final judgment (Matt. 25:31-46). In order to prepare His disciples for that eventuality, Jesus tells three parables (Matt. 24:45-51; 25:1-13; 25:14-30) with overlapping and expanding points about the need to be prepared. In each parable, there is an expectation, a delay, and a contrast between 2 different types of people who meet two very different outcomes. There are the righteous and the wicked, the prepared and the pretenders, the productive, and the procrastinating. Joy, reward, and feasting await the first category of individuals, but doom, darkness, and destruction will befall the latter. With these parables Jesus was calling His disciples, and Matthew his readers, to patient preparation and production.

Those looking forward to an eternity with the bridegroom/master must begin preparing now to live productive lives utilizing the skills, abilities, resources, and opportunities for the good of the kingdom. Jesus gives us a further picture of what this looks like (Matt. 25:31-46). The people who prepare to live in eternity with Him are those who regularly engage in clothing the poor, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, going to those in prison, etc. Life in between Christ’s ascension to the throne and His return when all is made right and the kingdom is fully and finally His ought to be characterized by being attentive to the needs of others, especially our fellow Christians, and using our time, opportunities, skill, abilities, resources, etc. to meet those needs. One of the distinguishing markers between those who engage in these activities and those who don’t is the ability to “see” the needs of others (Matt. 25:38-40, 44-45). Here are four prescriptions to help us focus our lenses in order that we might “see” better:

  1. Look inside: Perhaps the reason I don’t see any needs that I could meet is that I don’t see that I can meet a need. We tend to block out a lot of the things we feel no power to help. Certain things just aren’t on our radar. An element of Jesus’ parable of the talents that really stuck out to me was that the master gave to his servants “each according to his ability” (Matt. 25:15). We all have been given skills, opportunities, and resources to be able to do God’s work in this world. My abilities are not your abilities and you will not be judged according to my standard, but each of us Christians has been blessed in our own ways and has the ability to do good in this world. One of the songs that is perennially stuck in my head comes from the kids’ show, Daniel Tiger. It goes, “everyone is big enough, big enough to do something.”  I think that is essentially what Jesus is saying. We have all been blessed with a stewardship of sorts and the expectation is that we use it well. I must ask, honestly, and introspectively, what are my talents, my resources, my opportunities that I could use to be in service of others? We may not everything, but every one of us has something. Perhaps we need some help looking inside. Ask a close companion, “what do I have to offer? how can I be of service to others? what are the unique ways that God is purposing to work through me?”
  2. Look outside: Sometimes the reason we fail to see other’s needs is that we are so wrapped up in our own lives with its attendant necessities. The kids have to get fed, the yard needs to be mowed, bills have to be paid, teeth should probably be brushed (mouthwash might not hurt too), showers should be mandatory at least on a bi-weekly basis (as a modern man I shower at least once, often twice a day) and the list of things we need to do for ourselves goes on and on. The point is not to neglect our own necessities but to make sure we are making time to recognize others. Am I always caught up in my own bubble? Do I ever venture to ask what other people are needing? Do I even time to ask such a question? Perhaps it is the case that many of our “necessities” are not really necessary at all (very few people probably actually need to bath twice a day). Perhaps there are some helpful (and some not so helpful), albeit unnecessary practices that we could and should get rid of so that our lives might be less cluttered with actives and our vision be made clearer to see the needs of others.
  3. Look “down”: I mean this not of course in the derogatory manner of looking down at another in derision, but rather looking to the lowly of society, the outcasts, the overlooked, especially among God’s people.  As Jesus paints a scene of judgment day, both categories of people, the righteous and the wicked, are surprised by His commendation of having taken care of Him. The latter group would argue in essence, “Lord if we had seen you of course we would have cared for you and met your needs!” After all, everybody would surely take notice of their king (Matt. 25:40). Their problem was that they had a blindspot for people lower on the totem pole than of society than them. The surprising truth that Jesus is revealing is that in taking care of the “least of [His] brothers and sisters” they have done it to Him (Matt. 25:40, 45). I need to look down to the overlooked and lift them up with whatever resources or abilities I have. I must train my eyes to see outside of my normal sphere of vision.  I must see those I don’t normally associate with. I must see those with whom I have little familiarity. Where are my blind spots?
  4. Look up: This last one should be obvious. We should be looking up to God praying for opportunities to serve and for clear vision to see needs as they come along. Let us constantly pray for open doors, open hearts, and open hands, ready to serve when He answers. This is one prayer, that you can be certain, He will answer positively. Let’s look and pray, pray, and look.