Jump Start # 1992
1 John 3:17 “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?
We are in the season of giving. People tend to be more generous at the holiday times than other times. It is good to give. Our verse was written long before the holiday traditions were ever formed. It is not a seasonal verse. It has to do with the goodness within a heart.
There are three key action words found here.
First, HAS. Here is a Christian who HAS the world’s goods. He has been blessed and is not in need. He has become successful financially. He has done well. Because he HAS, certain privileges are available to him. He can travel. He can purchase. And, he can give.
Second, BEHOLDS. The man who HAS now BEHOLDS someone in need. It’s his brother, or simply, another Christian. This person has not been blessed the same. He has not been successfully financially. He doesn’t have privileges, because he doesn’t have any means to pay for them. He is need of basics—food, clothing and shelter. His man is not across the world, nor on the other side of the country. The one who HAS, BEHOLDS the one who is in need. He sees him. He notices. Much like the wounded man in the Lord’s parable we call the good Samaritan. BEHOLD. The rich man had the opportunity to help poor Lazarus. He was laid at his gate. The rich man had to see him.
Third, CLOSES. The man who has, now CLOSES his heart. A decision has been made. He will not help. He ignores what he has beheld. Opportunity and means needs the third element, an open and loving heart. Without that, the wallet stays in the pocket. Without that, the head turns and looks the other way. No one made him close his heart. It was his choice. He could have helped, but he didn’t. He walks away, keeping his money, and the poor brother lingers in his hunger. The man who HAS may have thought, ‘it’s not my responsibility.’ But it was. He may have thought, ‘let his family take care of him.’ However, he was family. The poor man was his brother in faith. Selfish, stingy, the heart closed. This is not how God acted. Jesus would not have done that. It’s one thing to want to help, but you don’t have any way to do that. This man HAS. He simply won’t let go of what he HAS.
The passage ends with a question. We know the answer. How does the love of God abide in him? It doesn’t. What abides is his love of stuff. What abides is selfishness. What abides is a failure to see the golden rule. What would he want if he was in the place of that poor brother? He’d hope someone would be kind and generous.
Closing the heart is intentional. We close doors. A closed door keeps the weather, animals and others out. God closed the door on the ark. In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the door was closed and those that were out buying oil, returned too late and found a door that was closed and would not be opened again.
Here, closing the heart reveals a mean and selfish spirit. It sends a message that you are not welcome here. Awkward as this can be, we can be guilty of closing our hearts today.
We can close our hearts upon those who are different than we are. They are tattooed. They have bright colors in their hair. Their skin color is different. They talk differently than we do. They do not have the same background as we do. And as they show up to worship with us, they are met with closed hearts. You can feel when you are not welcomed. Few will greet you. Few will talk with you. Few will include you. Closed hearts.
We can close our hearts upon those who need a lot of attention. Some are high maintenance. It seems there is one problem after another. Maybe they aren’t very good with money. Maybe they are just a step out of the world and the world keeps luring them back. Maybe they come from dysfunctional families that are messy with issues. It takes a lot of time to help some folks. Some seem to be reoccurring. It is easy to close our hearts and be done with “those” people. Go away, is what we may wish. But that’s not love and it’s certainly not Christ. The hours that are needed for helping these problems are enormous. Godly shepherds will do just that. They are there to help the sick, diseased and broken. It’s fun and easy to hang around the sheep that are doing well. But the call of the shepherd is to help the hurting. Closing the heart sends a message that some are not wanted nor accepted because they have too many problems.
We can close our hearts on any new ideas. Often, it’s younger folks that are generating these ideas. They see things in the business world and believe that they would be helpful in the kingdom. Closed hearts refuse to sing newer and faster hymns. Closed hearts fights technology and using modern tools to spread the Gospel message. Closed hearts are satisfied with just doing what has always been done. This discourages younger believers. In time, they become dissatisfied and leave. The closed heart club are glad that they are gone. Now, things can return to the way things have been.
Worst of all, we can close our hearts to where we are with God. Instead of looking in the mirror, we can be judgmental towards others. Instead of growing, we stay the same. Instead of becoming, we simply stay on the outside of faith, doing as little as possible. We are around goodness but we never partake. Our closed heart can’t see that we can improve. It fails to see that we can do more. The heart is closed.
For some, the heart is not only closed, but it is locked and the key has been thrown away. It will remain closed. Nothing, no sermon, no passage, no one-on-one discussion, will ever open that heart. Smug, arrogant, and unmovable, these closed hearted people are not pleasing the Lord. Their soul is in danger because they are not what God wants them to be.
What can be done? Open up that door of your heart. Only you can open up your heart. No one can do that for you. Open up your eyes and look around. BEHOLD. There is opportunity all around us to help, encourage, teach and show Jesus. Be generous—with your time, with your blessings, with your life. Make a difference.
I wonder what would have happened had the rich man stopped his carriage, picked up Lazarus and carried him inside? A doctor could have come. Food could have been given. Lazarus may have died, but he would have died knowing that he was cared for. He would have died with caring hands trying to help him. He would not have died outside, by the gates, alone and unloved.
A heart that is open or a heart that is closed. We hold the key in our hands every day. What will it be today?