“Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God”
He was a beneficent man.
Multitudes of men are benevolent, but not beneficent.
Benevolence is well wishing. Beneficence is well doing. He was always well doing, giving sight to the blind, healing the sick, cleansing the leper, feeding the hungry, raising the dead, unloosing the bonds of Satan–unwinding the serpent’s coil.
He was absolutely unselfish.
He emptied himself and made room in his soul for other lives. He had no office hours and never interposed secretaries or major-domos between himself and the people. He received all who came unto him– ministering without money and without price.
There is one scene that might well be painted by a master hand.
It is evening. The western sky is all aglow with the glory of the setting sun. Far up in the dome of the infinite blue, the evening star swings golden, like a slow descending lamp let down by invisible hands. The street is in half-tone. It is packed by the strangest of throngs, by the blind, the lame, the halt, the paralyzed and the leper –derelicts of humanity — borne thither on a surging tide of life in which every wave is an accent of pain; they are driven and piled up in great, quivering heaps against a door which is partly shut, as in self-defence, by the sweltering crowd within.
Jesus of Nazareth is in that house.
He is healing the sick. He is giving health, and strength, and peace to all who seek him. He turns no one away. Compassion, sympathy, beneficence, the tenderness of a mother for her helpless babe–these are the characteristics which his daily ministry revealed.
Isaac Massey Haldeman, “IF NOT GOD–NOT GOOD”, Christ, Christianity and the Bible, 1912
Isaac Haldeman was Pastor First Baptist Church in New York City around the turn of last century. Here he simply paints a beautiful picture of Jesus, with a metaphor of a door. There are great masses, throngs, of suffering people on one side, striving to get in. They heap against the door, “which is partly shut, as in self-defence, by the sweltering crowd within.” What does this mean? Those in the church feel a temptation to partially shut the door? Do we sometimes fear engaging in charity, lest we have more asked of us than we can take? Do we keep the message of free grace locked up, lest undesirable people out there come in? I remember a friend from a respectable, suburban congregation, who delivered a Thanksgiving meal to a family. The gift recipient asked, “When are your church’s worship services?” The man, surely good-hearted enough to devote his weekend to this charitable act, gave the information, but all of us upon hearing the story did tense up a bit. What if THOSE people end up worshiping with us?
But Haldeman does not say that the masses were there to see the people inside, let alone make unreasonable demands from them. They are there to be healed by the Man inside. We confess that Jesus is surely the health, strength, and peace in a spiritual sense to all of our spiritual and eternal needs. But Jesus’ daily mission, according to Haldeman, was beneficence, which included many real, physical, temporal problems. We believe healings may happen. We know Jesus just did both. It is hard to believe our mission would therefore only be to proclaim spiritual blessings from a Spirit, however real we believe that Spirit to be. Jesus’ work appealed to the sick, blind, paralyzed, lame, and leper. Let us reflect on how we can mirror such beneficence.
PRAYER: Dear Lord, we thank you that Jesus is our health, strength, and peace. We pray that you would enable us to be beneficent to the sick, blind, paralyzed, lame, and leper. Forgive us of anything that makes us “partially close the door as if in self-defence.” Let us turn no one away. AMEN.