Scripture: Mark 2:1-12
Key verse: (11) ‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’
Reflection: Here is something Jesus never said: Not a hand out but a hand up.
Dangerous to play this game (Jesus never said anything about Netflix binging either) but there are some sayings we are sure Jesus did say, or wished he had, and I think this is one of them.
As I understand it, it’s an important message. We want to empower each other, build each other up and this can best happen not by doing everything for another as if they were powerless, but by helping our friends discover their own abilities and motivations — a hand up. However, aphorisms are tricky and can say little and hide much. An oft-repeated saying starts to comfort us more than encourage us, a sound bite that helps us avoid nuances and the messiness of human complexity.
There is a man in our story today who by all accounts is helpless. He is referred to as a paralytic (wince as condition is the sole definition of someone) and needs his friends to help him get to Jesus. Hard to know if his friends were being frat boys or faithful par excellence as they cut a hole in the roof to get their friend where he needs to be!? I mean, c’mon boys.
Yet, Jesus helps him and heals him. The man does nothing and says nothing. Only when it is over does he get up and walk home.
What happens next? Who knows, not part of the story right now. He might have gone home to watch Netflix, finally golf those 18 holes, enrolled in seminary, settled a long grudge, opened a skylight business or dedicated his life to the crippled. What he does is not the story, what Jesus did is the point. The kingdom of God cannot be truly measured in the metric of success, numbers, outcomes. The kingdom of God is not defined by what you do but by what is given to you: Love. Mercy. Grace. You might waste those gifts or you might in turn share them. Jesus just handed our nameless lucky friend in the story a gift — a complete hand out because sometimes that is just what is needed. What happens is not often up to us, but what we can do in a given moment when confronted with the challenge of the world is. Sometimes a hand up is required and sometimes, a hand out is all we can do. What happens with that gift is I guess God’s business.
Prayer: God, for the holy mix of mercy and motivation you pour out upon us, we praise you. May we welcome and imitate as able, your loving, scandalous love. Amen.
Author: Derek Macleod
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].