HELD ACCOUNTABLE

by David Sisler

The first instinct of many is not to help.

A woman in western Pennsylvania told about the night she successfully completed a Red Cross First Aid Course. On her way home the car in front of her drove off the road and over an embankment. She stopped her car and hurried to the accident site. She later told her friends the driver had a broken leg, severe lacerations and possible internal injuries.

She said, "Thank God, I took that first aid course. I put my head between my knees and didn't faint!"

When Jesus made his second trip into the Gentile area of Decapolis a crowd of 4000 people came to hear him. They were so intent on having Jesus minister to them that they stayed three days. Obviously they had not thought they would be there that long, because no one took along enough food.

It was at this point Jesus said, "I have compassion for these people. They have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way."

Like the lady from Pennsylvania, many of us consider our own needs before the needs of others. Not Jesus. The Bible says he had compassion on the crowd and then he turned that compassion into action.

Jesus did not ask, "Do you have any loaves?" He asked his disciples, "How many loaves do you have?" He was saying, "What do you have which can help these people?"

Compassion became a challenge. In effect, Jesus was saying, "Don't push the responsibility for helping others onto someone else. Don't say that you would help if you only had something to give. Don't say that in these circumstances it is impossible to help. Take what you have and give it and see what happens."

Many of the festivals of the Jewish faith are among the most joyful in any religion. One of the happiest is the Feast of Purim. It commemorates their nation's deliverance through the efforts of Queen Esther. One of the ordinances of the feast requires that no matter how poor a man is, he must seek out someone poorer than himself and give that person a gift. This celebration says, "Help others with what you have. You never know what you may be able to do."

Robert was a successful car dealer on the west coast. He owned a chain of dealerships. Early in his career, when he was just a rookie salesman, Robert bragged to his boss about all the cars he had sold. The man he worked for said, "It's not hard to be a hero among cripples." Robert reflected, "I've never since mentioned my success."

Now in the scheme of Murphy's Law that wonderful statement that if anything can go wrong it will we usually get a chance to use what we've learned. In other words, if life hands us lemons, we usually get the opportunity to make lemonade. That salesman, Robert, the one who learned abut bragging, set another man up in business. The second man prospered tremendously. One day he boasted to Robert about his great success. Robert looked at the man's record and said, "That's good, but just think what you could have done."

Near the end of his ministry Jesus told a parable most of us wish he'd kept to himself. A businessman went on a journey. He entrusted three men each with a different sum of money. When the businessman returned he asked for an accounting.

Two of the men doubled their original sums. The third one did nothing with his trust. He returned it to his master without profit and was soundly condemned. The first two men received identical praises, even though one of them earned two and one-half times more money.

What was Jesus saying? You're not held accountable for what you would have done if you only had the ability. You're accountable for the abilities and the opportunities you were given.

Imagine the anguish of being told, "That's good. Just think what you could have done!" In light of what Jesus did for each of us, it really is a tragedy!

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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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