Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Moving Compassion

Are you compassionate toward people in need? I did a word study on the word, "compassion." I felt a little convicted as I was reminded that compassion is more than a feeling.

There are several different Greek words that are translated "compassion" in the New Testament. As I studied, I noticed there was one particular Greek word used throughout the gospels to describe Jesus’ response to people around him. The word is, splagchnizomai. It means, “to have the bowels yearn, i.e. (fig.) feel sympathy, to pity: - have (be moved with) compassion (Strongs).” It is a heart response felt deep in the gut that compels us to action.

Moved by compassion, Jesus healed the sick (Matthew 14:14), cleansed the leper (Mark 1:41), taught the crowds (Mark 6:34), raised a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:13), and miraculously fed the multitudes with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish (Matthew 15:32). In every instance, the compassion Jesus felt deep within Him, compelled Him to take action – to eliminate pain or help the needy.

1 John 3:17-18 says,

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth (NIV).

Christ-like compassion is expressed when we go beyond simply telling others that we care by taking action to help them.

I have several reference books on Jewish history and traditions (one of my favorite topics!). I was interested to read that Jews have always had a strong sense of responsibility toward the poor and needy in their communities. Perhaps we can learn a little about compassion from our Jewish friends. Jesus was a Jew, you know!

A tradition that I found fascinating is the use of a small collection box called a pushke (or charity box). Jewish families begin teaching their children about the importance of regular, charitable giving through the use of small charity boxes. A collection box is kept in the home and used by all members of a Jewish household to deposit loose change on a daily basis. The money collected in the box is given to the poor or to a type of benevolence fund at their local synagogue. The presence of the charity box encourages young and old alike to cultivate the habit of giving to others without counting the cost.

After my research, I ordered a charity box for our family. Compassion isn’t a feeling. It is a heart response that compels us to action.

How does your family cultivate a habit of giving and reach out to the world around us with Christ-like compassion? I’d love to hear what you’re doing! Please share by posting a comment.

-Mindy Ferguson