I’ll tell you the truth. The first time I read the Gospel of Luke from the opening verse to the last I panicked. In fact, every time I read the Gospel of Luke I panic.
I panic because it’s always so clear that I am falling far short of Jesus’ expectations.
The problem, of course, is that Luke tells it straight. He cuts right to the chase, to the heart of the Gospel, which is simply this: love God; love your neighbor. And he tells us exactly how to do that, in verses like these:
“If you have two shirts, give one to the poor.” (Luke 3:11)
“If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” (Luke 3:11)
He also tells us what will happen if we don’t heed his instructions. We’ll pay the price, that’s what. We’ll be like chaff, separated from the wheat with a winnowing fork and burned. (Luke 3:17) We’ll be like the tree that doesn’t produce good fruit: chopped down and thrown in the fire. (Luke 3:9)
I think sometimes I try to sugarcoat the Gospels – to gloss over the scary, intimidating parts, the verses about chaff and chopped wood and never-ending fire. I pretend I don’t see the tough-love parts, the parts where Jesus tells me he means business.
But the truth is, I can’t come away from the Gospel of Luke making any ifs, ands or buts for myself. If I read the words, all the words, there’s no space in that text for excuses. Luke doesn’t offer any wiggle room. He states the case, Jesus’ case, without any frills or fanfare, and he puts the burden on one person: me.
So here’s the question I’m asking myself these days – the same one the crowds asked John the Baptist when they came to the edge of the river.
What should I do?
The question feels complicated. Or perhaps I try to make it complicated.
But the answer is simple, right there in black and white:
If you have two shirts, give one to the poor.
If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.
What’s been your experience in reading the Gospel of Luke? Have you found his emphasis on serving the poor to be convicting in any way? What’s one small way you can give to the poor or share with the hungry this week?
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