When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” — Matthew 9:36-38
I don’t think of myself as an anti-social person. I enjoy being in the company of others, engaging in conversation, participating in group activities, etc. Yet there are times when I am out in public that I find myself in full curmudgeon-mode. I grumble about the person who takes too long in the checkout line, I get frustrated with people that I interact with at work, and I secretly judge the person with the 3 foot spoiler on the back of their Dodge Neon and Nickelback cranked up to 11 on the radio.
I am ashamed to admit that I sometimes think like this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who has these kinds of lapses. In fact, this kind of thinking seems to be a common part of the human experience, given how quickly we self-sort into like-minded tribes and act superior to anyone the doesn’t think or act like “us.” We view the people around us as mere annoyances. I even know of one person who jokingly “prays” against the “enemies” that get in his way on the interstate!
When I find myself falling into this trap, I only know of one strategy to escape it. I pray to my Father to help me see the other person as they truly are, as His child, who is as deserving of grace and mercy as I am. When you begin to look at others through this lens, we open ourselves up to be moved with compassion, just like Jesus was in the passage above. Rather than feeling frustration with the crowds that followed Him from city to city, without ever fully understanding the reality and importance of what they were witnessing, Jesus simply loved them and tried to explain it all one more time.
Have you ever noticed how Jesus would sometimes tell different stories that taught the same message in a different way? He was just trying to help people understand His message however He could. And still, there were those who never were able to fully grasp it.
Confused & Helpless — that is never a fun place to find yourself. You know that it’s not clicking, that you don’t have it figured out, but you don’t even know where to turn for assistance. You are literally stuck, waiting for someone to come along and rescue you from the dilemma in which you find yourself. And that is how this passage describes those who need hear the Truth of God in their lives.
There is no shortage of people that are looking for meaning to their existence. It doesn’t take long to find books, blogs, diets and self-help systems that all claim to help you be a better you, to find yourself and become the person you were meant to be. And people are hungry for it! We are constantly trying to find ourselves, to express ourselves, and re-create ourselves, in reality and in the perception of others. But all these efforts to define ourselves by the judgment of others or who we wish to be will fall flat if we fail to define ourselves by the only criteria that matters, our relationship and standing with God.
The passage points out that the harvest is great, but the workers are few. God does not need our help. If He wanted, He could light up the sky in every conceivable language proclaiming the gospel message. But in His infinite wisdom, He has commissioned YOU and ME to carry His message into the world. The fact of the matter is that relationships are important and a message given by a friend or someone you respect carries far more weight than the words of a stranger. That is why God has called us to this Great Commission. There are people that because of your location, geographically, at work, or as a member of your family, you have the ability to reach and influence. Will you be faithful to that call?
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, make us see those around us with eyes of compassion, just as Jesus did. Help us to speak Life and Truth, to those who are confused & helpless. Guide us in our interactions with others, so that everything we say and do can in some way reflect your Love and Mercy, and in doing so, point others to You. We are willing workers, desiring a great harvest for Your Kingdom. Amen.