By Nate Chaplin
We have all heard the quotes from the gospels about clothing the naked, taking in the stranger, visiting the prisoners, caring for the sick, giving water to the thirsty, and feeding the hungry. And we are so quick to make this checklist of things we need to do as Christians when we see such things. We will volunteer at nursing homes, hospitals, and food lines for the homeless. We may even raise a bunch of money and travel for hours to do such things in “third world” countries, all the while telling ourselves “doing it for Jesus himself”.
But we often overlook the heart of what Jesus was saying.
This last month (August) when I was in Zambia, I found out that people in this area have an interesting view of missionaries. More specifically, they are under the impression that missionaries walk around with sermons in their back pockets. When we would go out “evangelizing” to locals (90% of which knew Jesus already), we would introduce ourselves and they would always say the same line: “Please share what you have prepared.”
Prepared? We didn’t know we were supposed to prepare something. So we would do our best to come up with something on the fly, which God usually blessed, and move on to the next house. We would get to the next house, and once again, “Please share what you have prepared.” What?! Again? And the translator would expect something different from last time.
And it would not just happen while evangelizing. We would go to choir practice (long story) and at the end, the choir director would look at us and say, “Please share what you have prepared.” We would go to a wedding, attend a graduation-ish ceremony, and even climb a small mountain for recreation with only one other person, and we would always hear the same thing. “Please share what you have prepared.” It was exhausting “preparing” so many messages. It was like cramming for finals in 15 1/2 seconds.
And for that reason, it was great. It taught us that we must always be “prepared” to feed the hungry.
In third-world missions it is hard to remember that Jesus didn’t just mean the physically hungry. When you are surrounded by the physically hungry and ill-clothed and estranged and imprisoned and sick and thirsty, it can be easy to forget that Jesus calls us to clothe the sinner in righteousness, love those who are strangers to compassion, free those in bondage, bring the sick to the Physician, give living water to the to those thirsting for the Spirit, and giving the bread of life to those who hunger for truth.
We need to stop thinking only of the physical but of the spiritual as well. We need to keep our eye on the ball, because the Enemy would be just fine with us handing out plates of rice the whole year and never feed their souls.
Nate is on a year-long trip around the world called The World Race.