In 1879, Western Union was arguably the most powerful communications company in the world. The telegraph was the dominant communication medium. The upstart was Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone. Bell was struggling to get the device accepted and offered to sell all telephone patents to Western Union for $100,000. Western Union’s president is said to have asked: “why would our telegraph operators need to talk with each other?” The offer was declined, and Bell Telephone (later AT&T) would become the communications giant for much of the 20th century.
Around the same time, railroads were the king of transportation. But their owners didn’t see the value in investing in trucks, buses and airplanes, and they too were soon marginalized. The problem? Western Union saw itself in the telegram business and not the communications business. Railroads saw themselves in the train business and not the transportation business.
Christ-followers can make the same mistake when we focus on the good deeds we are called to do as followers of Jesus. As a result, we come to think of ourselves as being in the feeding the poor business, or visiting the elderly, sick or incarcerated business or helping the homeless business. In fact, we are in the Jesus business. Or at least we should be. So, what does that look like? It’s the difference between giving someone a gift to get them to love versus giving them a gift because you love them, and they already love you.
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:37-40 (NIV)
Ed Silvoso drives this point home near the end of his book “Prayer Evangelism:”
“How can a person give water to the thirsty, feed the hungry and visit prisoners, and not realize that he or she is doing these things to Jesus (not for)? Because when we are so focused on Him and Him alone, the doing does not matter. It is being with Him that counts, and when we are with Him, passionately in love with Him, we always take care of those He came to seek and save.”
In other words, when we’re in the business of loving Jesus, the loving acts toward others will flow naturally from us. So why is it important to do these good things out of love rather than a sense of duty? Silvoso believes it is the very essence of following the Great Commission to which Jesus has called us:
“If we remain focused on Jesus and Him alone, the storm around us will die down and multitudes will confess that He is certainly God’s Son. They will do it not because of our expertise, but because of our dependence on Him. Let us make Jesus our only consuming passion. Then, and only then, will we be ready to see our cities transformed.”
In the economy of Heaven, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing good deeds. But when it comes to storing up riches for eternity, Jesus is the gold standard.
This post was republished with permission from Oakbrook Church, De Pere, WI. https://oakbrookgb.org/