When I Needed a Charitable Handout
The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Luke 10:2
If you had asked me a few weeks before I went to chemical dependency treatment if I was willing to help those who were addicted, I would have supported the effort financially. Maybe out of guilt or obligation, I would have given money, and I would have considered myself to be on the side of those who would help addicts. Perhaps I wouldn’t have wanted to get involved personally, but in theory, I was on the side of serving and assisting others.
While in treatment, I had this profoundly humbling experience one day as we visited a local church where I found myself on the receiving end of charity. I realized as I filled my plate with food, that I was accepting a handout. There I was, a physician, who a few weeks earlier sat in my own church, pretending to be on the side of good, while hiding my own dark secret. I claimed to follow God, but in reality, I followed myself . . . to disaster. In that moment, I saw that I was the one who needed help.
In today’s passage, Jesus seemed to offer us this choice. We can be part of his plan to lead others to a new life, or we can be among those who need to be led. As Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God, he lamented that the harvest (those who were in need of God) was more plentiful than those who did the harvesting (those who followed God).
This is a choice we all must make. We may say we follow God, but if we simply claim faith without actually living it, then we’re still part of the problem. If we truly follow God, we will carry his message of the new life to those who need it. If we refuse to carry the message of the kingdom of God, then we’re not truly following him.
Finding myself on the wrong side of that serving line was a painfully humbling experience. Transformation meant following God instead of me. In doing so, I needed to make sure I wasn’t doing it out of pride, just to get back on the other side of the charity line. Pride just leads insidiously back to following me. Truly following God means daily abandoning my way to follow his, which necessarily includes sharing the new life with those around us.