Sabbath School Lesson for September 14-20, 2019
Elements of what the final product, namely mercy, should look like in the life of a Christian include…
- having our values and priorities match those of the kingdom of heaven (Sunday)
- avoiding compassion fatigue (Monday)
- demonstrating generosity that does the most good for both the giver and recipient (Tuesday)
- engaging in peacemaking, ultimately reconciling others to their Creator (Wednesday)
- becoming an advocate, or voice, for those who need our intervention (Thursday)
The generous actions of Zacchaeus on the day Jesus came to his house should be repeated by all who come in contact with their Savior. Giving to the poor should be a natural response whenever Jesus has been invited into the heart of a believer.
Our care for humanity is the most telling sign that we love and respect our Creator. After all, He created all those around us, including the downtrodden and oppressed. The loving ministry of Jesus for the margenilized of society inspires us to do the same.
What’s been described as merciful social ethics should never be dismissed from the agenda of a Christian who endeavors to follow Christ in a meaningful, heartfelt way. It should be included in every church mission statement, not as an afterthought, but as a primary duty to fulfill, in order to spread the gospel most effectively.
Memory Text: “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness; he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends; he will guide his affairs with discretion.” Psalm 112:4, 5 NKJV
No one can manufacture mercy. It doesn’t come naturally from the darkness of the human heart. Its presence is only felt as one comes into contact with a merciful God. But it’s a kind of mercy that is easily shared. God enables us to reflect His gracious, compassionate, and righteous nature, so others are blessed, and they are likewise inspired to show mercy to others.
Sunday: Kingdom Priorities
One of the most telling signs that our priorities have changed is by the way we treat our fellowman. Like Zacchaeus, our values and priorities often require a complete update. A thorough examination of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew 5-7) gives us the details of what these kingdom priorities are.
This change in heart may lead to more thoughtful financial giving or simply treating our neighbor with a little more respect and kindness. But these are signs, both inward and outward, that indicate God’s tender mercy being felt in our hearts.
The values of the heavenly kingdom should also exist in the kingdom of the heart. After all, we’ve been taught to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
Of course, there will be barriers on this earth that make these new values and actions difficult to implement. Governments, for instance, have long been a challenge for believers.
We are counselled to obey the government, as far as conscience allows (Romans 13:1-7). But, obeying God must come before obeying manmade laws, even if leaders are considered divinely appointed to hold their positions (Acts 5:19).
Keeping our priorities in order must be foremost in our attempt to follow God’s will, no matter how difficult.
Read Matthew 6:25, 30-33. How does worry reveal our priorities? What is the antidote for worry?
Read Luke 12:33, 34. How does what we treasure reveal our priorities? How can we change what we treasure, or can we, and why?
Read Romans 13:1, 7, Matthew 22:21, and Acts 5:29. How much power should we let the government have over our priorities in life? How can we obey God and still obey governments? When is our resistance needed, and why are we told not to resist unless necessary?
Monday: Compassion Fatigue
Compassion fatigue, or just becoming weary of doing good, might be avoided by paying attention to these details about our ministry:
- Have true compassion–make sure our feelings reflect true empathy for those we care for.
- Be informed of the real, individual needs of those we care for–not for perceived needs that we assume exist, based on our own experience.
- Use prayer as a constant, daily tool for helping for others–not as an additional resource when everything else has failed.
- Make sure our expectations are within reach–that tangible benefits will result from our labors, for both short-term and long-term causes.
Let’s remember that the quality of our care ministry counts, if we are going to have a sustained work and not grow weary of helping others. Burnout is possible in any line of work, so we must keep our focus on God and use the wisdom He imparts to our efforts to reflect His love.
Read James 1:5, 6. Why are we all in need of wisdom? Why are prayer and faith essential parts of a successful ministry? How are both the care recipient and the person who cares impacted by prayers of faith?
Read James 1:26, 27. What constitutes true religion? What brings real value to our profession of faith?
Read Matthew 7:12. How could this principle make a difference in how we conduct our ministry to others? Why is this principle necessary in order to reveal the true character of God, keeping us from having compassion fatigue?
Jesus’ sacrifice, the gift of life itself, motivates us to have generosity. And this one character trait, above all others, allows us to have a successful ministry for “the least of these”.
Generosity is not so much what we do or how much we give, but the attitude that accompanies our gift. Jesus pointed this out in the story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44). This is confirmed further when Paul emphasized that “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
When so much in society and culture encourages us to focus on self, God wants us to focus on others and become purposeful, generous, and, yes, even cheerful givers.
God does not measure the size of our pocket book, but the size of our heart. A generous heart, like the widow’s, will always be a big one, even when the gift is small.
Read this article for how generosity, or doing good, is good for you:
Read Luke 21:1-4 and 2 Corinthians 8:9-14. Why is God more interested in our willingness to give than the amount of our gift? Why is it important to share the cost of supporting a ministry?
Read Leviticus 25:35-37. Why should we be careful not to burden or take advantage of people coming to us from foreign lands? How does the golden rule of Matthew 7:12 apply to our treatment of any stranger among us? Who’s needs are more important–the stranger’s or ours?
Read 1 John 3:16-18 and 1 Timothy 6:17-19. How do we avoid covetousness and becoming rich in the world’s goods only? How does pride enter our hearts when we fail to acknowledge Christ’s gift for us?
With so much war and devastation in the world today, we must recognize the peacemaking role of the Christian. It is how the world identifies us as God’s children. After all, Jesus blessed this peacemaking role, when He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
Notice He calls us peacemakers, not peacekeepeers. This emphasizes even more the need for active involvement from beginning to end. Making peace must precede keeping peace, even though both are needed. We must become part of the solution for both making peaceful solutions happen and keeping the peace, so future war is minimized.
Justice demands that we do all we can to alleviate the sufferings of war and promote peace. Taking active steps to love our enemies is not easy, but it is the often the only way to establish peaceful resolutions, part of peacemaking. Christians, above all, should lead in accomplishing this. It constitutes the “gospel of peace” we’ve been given.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20. What constitutes the “ministry of reconcilition” of those who are called Christians? Is it also our “job” to reconcile people to each other? Why, or why not?
Read Matthew 5:43-48. How can loving our enemies help when it comes to peacemaking in the world today?
Read Isaiah 52:7. How are proclaiming peace and proclaiming salvation related? Why are they both needed?
Thursday: A Voice for the Voiceless
Although we are primarily called to speak up for God and proclaim His character, it is also necessary to speak up for “the least of these”, with whom God has closely identified Himself.
Being a voice, speaking up in behalf of someone else, is a needed ministry and should not be overlooked. Despite inconvenience, opposition, and even danger that might accompany doing so, God expects us to support others in ways we might not have considered.
Those who are oppressed or marginalized in society often need someone to speak up and promote their causes. Being their advocate can often bring about more lasting change than helps of a more temporary nature, such as food and clothing distribution.
If justice is to prevail, we must not hesitate to speak out, if God calls us to be an advocate. After all, Solomon reminded us that there “is a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:7). Pray that God will reveal your time to be a voice for the voiceless.
Read Proverbs 31:8 and Isaiah 10:1, 2. Who are those who might be considered “speechless”? What is our duty to them?
Read Isaiah 10:1, 2 and Psalm 146: 6-10. How is being an advocate a part of providing justice as much as other means of help?
Read 1 Peter 3:17. Why isn’t being an advocate always an easy option in choosing a ministry? Why is remembering God’s will important when we decide to speak up for someone?
Micah 6:8 tells us that God requires only that we…
- act justly
- love mercy
- walk humbly with God
One can’t successfully do the first and last requirements here, without loving mercy.
- It’s God’s love and mercy that causes us to act justly toward those around us.
- When we experience God’s mercy, we are then able to relate to God with the humility required to sustain a meaningful relationship with Him (to walk with Him).
Mercy is therefore the glue that holds together all our relationships–both on this earth, and in heaven.
No wonder the church is called upon to exhibit ministries of mercy to those in the community. These experiences of charity solidify our love of mercy, and enable use to spread the gospel of salvation in a way that can’t otherwise be achieved. After all, salvation is based on mercy.
Two quotes from the author, Ellen G. White, confirm this principle:
“Practical work will have far more effect than mere sermonizing. We are to give food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and shelter to the homeless. And we are called to do more than this. The wants of the soul, only the love of Christ can satisfy.” ~Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 417
“Search heaven and earth, and there is no truth revealed more powerful than that which is made manifest in works of mercy to those who need our sypathy and aid. This is the truth as it is in Jesus. When those who profess the name of Christ shall practice the principles of the golden rule, the same power will attend the gospel as in apostolic times.” ~Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 137
Next Week’s Lesson: A Community of Servants
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
Other Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/