God of the Needy

Jesus came to serve the needy and give his life for them. He reached out to the poor, the sick, the grieving, social outcasts, irrelevant children, destitute widows, flagrant law-breakers, and shamed prostitutes. He extended invitations to the thirsty, the weary, the burdened, the hungry, the lost, the hurting.

Are needy people more loved by God? No, but they’re more receptive—they’re ripe and ready. The truth is all people are needy. All people need a Savior. Hurting people recognize they have needs. Self-sufficient people do not. The thirsty come to the well for water. The satisfied stay home.

God loves needy people. God loves self-sufficient people too. He wants to give them the greatest gift—which is himself—so he goes to great lengths to show them their need.

A rich man came to Jesus asking how to attain eternal life. Jesus tries to show him that he needs a Savior, but the self-righteous man says he’s kept all the commandments. When he doesn’t see his need, Jesus presses him further by asking him to give away all his wealth, assuring him that if he does, he will have treasure in heaven. “Then come follow me.” The rich man doesn’t want to be needy and have to depend on Jesus for the rest of his life. He wants to be self-sufficient and have eternal life (we can all relate to that). He walks away.

A person can’t earn heaven by giving away their money, so why does Jesus require it of him? A line in the story often missed, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” (Mark 10:21). Jesus wants something better for him than temporary wealth. The requirement to give his money away is a test of his belief. The rich man will not follow Jesus, because he doesn’t truly believe in Jesus’ promise of treasure in heaven—either the validity of the One making the promise, or the promise itself. He turns down Jesus’ request, and then tragically, Jesus turns down his.

The God of the needy reaches out to all, but he’s only sufficient for some.

The story of the Apostle Paul, formerly known as Saul, shows us how God took someone antagonistic to Jesus, and with tough love showed him his need. Saul was on his way to Damascus “breathing out threats against the Lord’s disciples.” Suddenly a light flashed around him, so bright that he fell to the ground.

A voice said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.” Acts 9:1-9

Jesus takes the initiative with Saul. He uses a bright light and an unseen voice to get his attention. Would this light and voice have been enough to radically change the direction of Saul’s life? Would it be enough to change his heart? To give him a love for Jesus stronger than his hate had been? To break through his tough-as-steel pride? Maybe not. Jesus takes it a step further, and makes him needy. Jesus blinds him for three days. Ironically, the blindness lets him see.

How much does Jesus love this self-righteous, gospel hating, Christian-abusing Saul? So much that he takes this zealous persecutor and makes him his representative.

Jesus strips away everything Paul has put his hope in: his impressive resume, his social standing, his self-confidence and self-righteousness. Jesus takes away from Saul everything he ever worked for and believed in. Not because he hates Saul, but because he loves him. Jesus wants so much more for Saul. He replaces what he took from Saul with new purpose … and new hope.

We see comparisons and contrasts between the rich man and Saul:
• Both are needy, yet neither is poor.
• Both encounter Jesus who shows them their need.
• Jesus asks for something drastic from the rich man (give away everything).
Jesus causes something drastic for Saul (blindness).
• Jesus proves to be all-sufficient for Saul, but not for the rich man.
• Saul finds salvation and hope. The rich man finds neither.

Jesus is all-sufficient for those who see their need.

The more I grow in my faith, the more I see my need for Jesus. How about you?

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