Why Should I Help You?

by Lois Tverberg

“Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure-pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” Luke 6:38

We all know the line of the Lord’s Prayer that says, “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” Jesus often emphasized the idea that the way we treat others is the way God will treat us, and that we should have mercy on others if we want God to have mercy on us. Jesus says that “with the measure you use, it will be measured out to you.” (Luke 6:38)

ScaleThis idea of “measure for measure,” expecting God to treat us as we treat others, has been a part of Jewish culture ever since Jesus’ time. One 18th century rabbi had an interesting spin on it, saying:

“When a poor man asks you for aid, do not use his faults as an excuse for not helping him. For then God will look for your offenses and he is sure to find many. (1)

This is very convicting. When a person is experiencing hardship, the first thing we wonder is whether they brought it on themselves. It’s easy to respond, “Well, you made your bed, now lie in it!” But who among us has not screwed up something important in our lives? A person may have lost a job or destroyed a marriage by irresponsible behavior, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t help them nonetheless.

What an interesting challenge — that instead of acting as judge upon the way others run their lives, our first thought should be how to help them. Certainly, we need to have discernment about being an enabler to a person who needs to change how they live. But knowing that a person has faults should not harden us to trying to care for them. Otherwise, the next time we beg the Lord for help we might hear him reply, “You brought your problems on yourself – why should I help you?”

(1) Rabbi Shmelke of Nikolsberg, (d. 1778), quoted in Jewish Wisdom, by J. Telushkin, (c) 1994, Morrow and Co., p. 15.

Photo: Rick Hunter