What does God expect of me? You would think that would be an easy question for someone like me to answer, someone who’s been reading the Bible since I learned how to read. The answer has gotten clouded, unfortunately, because of my selective reading of the Bible.
For example, I would read James 1:24 “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows…” and then think, “But I’m busy and at least I go to church and try to be really nice to everyone I see, everywhere. Surely some of them must be orphans and widows without me even realizing it!”
Or Matthew 5:44, where Jesus says to “[L]ove your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…,” and decline to pray for people who I didn’t like because I didn’t technically have enemies, so my prayers weren’t needed.
Or Proverbs 22:9: “whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor,” and I would reason that surely God really wants me to enjoy the food I just bought for myself with my hard-earned money even though the homeless person outside my car window right now might actually be really hungry.
Or the parable of the Good Samaritan, from Luke 10 (verse 36) “‘Which of these three, do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.'” But my time is really valuable and even if I did have time to help someone in crisis, my Spanish isn’t the best and a Mexican could probably be more effective.
Or Mark 12:31, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This might not apply to me because I don’t even know my neighbors and what if they think I’m weird for reaching out?
Over the past few months, God has been slowly revealing the ridiculousness of all of my excuses. Of my selective reading. Of only obeying the parts of the Bible that I want to obey.
So, what exactly does God expect? Well, I think he actually expects me to pray for difficult people in my life. A few months ago someone close to me said some very hurtful things, and for weeks, I struggled to process what had happened and why they would say those things (while still having to see them on a regular basis). One day, probably tired of my whining, Carlos suggested that I pray for them. But they hurt me, I initially protested. They should be praying for repentance!! But I quickly realized Carlos was right. The situation has still been hard and the person hasn’t apologized, but praying for them started the healing (and forgiveness) process.
Does he expect me to share what I have with the poor? Yes, I think he actually does. And I think God might expect more out of me because I’m working with the poor. I do, after all, get paid for what I do. But what a sad hypocrite I would be to turn around and use all of that money and all of my things on myself. I don’t always have food with me in the car, but when I do, God has been pushing me to give it away. Once I gave a burrito to a man and a jar of peanut butter to a young guy and they were both so thankful. I know people won’t always tell you thank you, but when they do, it’s an added blessing.
Does God expect me to help when there is an old man lying injured on the side of the road on the way to church? Yes, this is a true story, and yes, I think God actually does. As I drove by, I saw that the man wasn’t alone (someone else had seemingly stopped to help him) and didn’t want to risk being late for church by stopping to ask if they needed a ride or anything. What a joke. Fortunately, after about 2 minutes of driving, I realized I would not be able to enter the church service with a clear conscience. So I turned around. I asked the people if they were okay and if they needed anything. Although they declined my help and said everything was okay, I think God was testing me. Faith without works mean nothing, after all.
What does God expect of me? In short, everything. It’s easier said than done, but I’m trying to stop with the excuses. It’s hard trying to figure out if God requires Sunday morning church attendance but if we can maybe get by without attending that community outreach event during the week . Or if we don’t have to talk to our neighbors because we read the Bible that morning and it’s been a busy week and surely God wouldn’t ask us to over-exert ourselves. It’s a lot easier to just accept that God requires everything and to get to work trying to give it.