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Pointers along the way #652

Why don't you fast?

- Jacob Ninan

Some disciples of John the baptiser came to Jesus and asked Him why He and His disciples were not fasting as they did (Mt.9:14). John used to wear a dress made of camel's hair and his normal food was locusts and wild honey (3:4), and so it looks like his lifestyle tended to be of the ascetic sort. That group of people came to believe that their lifestyle was actually the spiritual thing to have because they were living sacrificially. So, what the disciples of John were asking was why Jesus didn't follow their lifestyle. What Jesus told them was essentially to be in line with the time and need, and not to be sticky about some rules they liked for themselves (9:16,17).

Jesus' lifestyle was different. His focus was not on what He ate or drank but doing the will of the Father at all times. When He was offered lavish food at times He ate that happily, so much so that He was accused of being a glutton (11:19) and with sinners (9:11), and when He didn't have even a place to sleep in He managed without complaints (8:20). Paul the apostle also learned the important lesson of being content with what he had, be that little or much (Php.4:11-13).

Disparity in lifestyles has been a topic of great agitation for people of all time because we are unable to define what the right lifestyle should be for a Christian. We like to think our style is normal. But there are always people who are poorer than we, and the question that troubles a sincere seeker after the truth is whether it is right for him to live at his standard while his brother has less. The answer is not to become like his poor brother because then he too would become dependent on others as his brother. When Jesus pointed out that there would always be poor with us (Mt.26:11) He was indicating that since this was one of the results of the sinfulness of man, we cannot expect a Utopian situation of equality in this life. Under the circumstances, what we need is for the richer among us to be generous towards others who have less means to take care of themselves (1Ti.6:17,18). There is something essentially lacking in our spirituality if we see a brother in need and close our heart towards him (Jas.2:15,16), especially if his need is of a pressing nature (Ti.3:14).

Neither communism nor socialism is the answer because they are both idealistic and do not stand the test of being realistic. On the other hand, the question of how much we ought to help others should always exercise our hearts as against how much we should provide for our own family which is our direct responsibility (1Ti.5:8). There are many other parameters also that come in this equation such as whether the needy brother ought to work harder (2Th.3:10), whether there are others who ought to be more responsible towards him (1Ti.5:4), whether he is being disciplined by the Lord at this time (He.12:9,10), etc.

Instead of judging others about lifestyle, let us keep an open, compassionate heart towards those in need.


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