Developing a Heart for the Weak
by Jacob Hudgins
God cares for the weak and needy. “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in his holy habitation”(Psalm 68:5). “The LORD sets the prisoners free; the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous. The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin”(Psalm 168:7-9). Jehovah is the God of the unloved wife, the foreigner, the poor, and the victim.
And he expects his people to reflect this care. “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”(James 1:27). God wants his people to have a heart for the weak. How do we develop this kind of compassion?
Observe. All around us people are in need. We must see them. James teaches us “to visit orphans and widows in their affliction”(1:27). They are afflicted. They have suffered a loss and deserve compassion because of it. It is notable that when Jesus shows compassion, the text often notes that he first sees the need. “And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her”(Luke 7:13). “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”(Matt 9:36). It is tempting for us to turn our eyes away from needs around us and declare them “not my problem.” Compassion begins with observing people in need.
Open your heart. But how do we feel about what we see? “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”(1 John 3:17). It is possible to see needs—and be able to help—yet refuse to feel. John calls this closing our hearts. If we are to be like God, we must allow ourselves to feel.
I find it helpful to think deeply about what their situation is like. How would I feel if I were blind? If my husband or child had just died and I was alone? If I had to grow up without parents? If I could not provide for my own needs? With such thoughts, I find myself sympathizing and wanting to help—because my heart is open. If we are to be like God, we must allow ourselves to feel.
Serve Jesus by serving others. Once we see and feel, it is time to act. My feelings do not meet needs. The Good Samaritan “came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds…”(Luke 10:33-34). There is a time when words are insufficient—or even shamefully empty—because action is needed. Mouthing religious platitudes does not bandage wounds or get hurt people out of the street. Jesus motivates us to this kind of service by telling us that as we help others, we serve him. “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me…Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”(Matt 25:35, 40). When we meet needs—hunger, thirst, welcoming, nakedness, sickness, loneliness—we do it to Jesus. Everywhere need is present, opportunities to serve Jesus abound. What will we do with what we have seen and felt?
God cares for the weak and needy. He surrounds us with weak and needy people and calls us to be like him. “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth”(1 John 3:18).