And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:34-36, NIV)
Clearly, Jesus did not work on Wall Street.
I don’t know if Bishop Ken Carter selected Luke-Acts for his yearlong reading invitation only because the two books have a nice round 52 chapters between them. But he had to know we were going to spend a lot of time reading about and talking about money and its meaning for a Christian.
In this very chapter we get the blessing on the poor and the woe to the rich. We get the blessing for the hungry and the woe to those who are full. We get this command — not invitation or suggestion — but command of Jesus Christ to lend to the ungrateful and wicked who we do not expect will ever pay us back.
A few years ago at Annual Conference — the first year we met in downtown Indianapolis — we had a person speak at the beginning of the conference about what to do when meeting all the panhandlers on the streets. The instructions were pretty straight forward. Give them no money. Urge them to seek the services of in the community that can connect them with all sorts of assistance.
I don’t think Jesus has a problem with that. Maybe more than giving folks a card, we should offer to walk with them or drive them to the closest office. But if there are systems in place to help people get off the streets, that seems like a good thing to encourage. First century Galilee had no social service agencies.
And yet, I am wary of pawning the responsibility for this command off too easily on others. In some ways, these institutions we create and support are meant — it seems — to disconnect us from those who are in need. We can shunt them into a system where they will not be an eyesore on our street corner or a source of conflict in our conscience.
This meditation on the Scripture, I notice, has turned much more practical than most of my others in this series. Somehow, though, I don’t think Jesus would mind.