I saw a Tweet the other day that said, “God cares infinitely more about making sure everyone has food, shelter and healthcare than ‘accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.’”
It’s no secret that even in 2021, people are hurting. There are people in third world countries and even here in the United States who are going without basic necessities—no home, minimal clothes, and not nearly enough food. It’s a tragedy, and these people deserve our help. Many missions are dedicated to combating these needs by providing regular meals or places to sleep. This isn’t only restricted to Christian ministries; in the winter of 2020, the Don Owens Sports Center in Conway, where I live, opened its doors to the homeless of the city so they’d have somewhere warm to stay.
We live in a world that cares about the poor and needy. Whether it’s a genuine care and desire to help or just a way to make oneself look good, intentions may vary from person to person. But in general it seems that most people genuinely want to help those in need, and this is a great thing. Charity seems to be the buzzword of the day, with politicians building entire platforms on how they can help the “little guy.”
Undeniably, helping the needy to get back on their feet is important. It’s a righteous cause, and it is something I believe God smiles on.
However, to say that God cares more about their food, shelter, or healthcare than their souls is a grievous misunderstanding of Scripture.
Time and again, the Gospels show us Jesus caring for the needy. He healed blind and lame beggars, cured lepers, and provided a catch of fish for fishermen who would’ve made no profit that day otherwise. Clearly, he did care about the physical needs of the people in the world around him. He urged his disciples to care for the poor and not to hoard wealth for themselves. It is not a stretch in the slightest to say that yes, Jesus was a charitable man.
But providing for physical needs was never Jesus’ primary mission. Nor did he call us to meet those needs above all. The Great Commission is not to feed the hungry (though he urges that as well), but to preach the Gospel to all the world and baptize and disciple converts. This was the number one command that Jesus left before he ascended to heaven.
He even told his disciples that “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” It was his purpose. That is why with every mouth he fed and every cripple he healed, he also called those same people to leave their sins and follow him. Forgiveness of sins was far more important to Jesus than a satisfied stomach or a healed ailment, because he cares more about our spiritual condition than our physical condition.
Jesus cares. He does. It breaks his heart to see people suffering, and he wants to help them. He wants us to help them. So we should.
We should feed the hungry and provide clothing and shelter for the needy.
We should want them to have access to affordable healthcare.
But we must not do so at the expense of the Gospel.
It’s not an either/or situation, because Christ calls us to do both. But the most important part by far is leading them to repentance of sin and salvation in Jesus. There may be days where we don’t have the money or means to help someone in their physical needs. But we can always show them the way to meet their spiritual needs.