One day, Jesus was walking alongside the Jordan river, when He came upon a man who was so drunk, he was almost incoherent. The man looked up at Jesus and asked Him for some money to buy food. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “Are you willing to give up your drinking to follow Me?” Jesus asked the man.
But the man ignored Jesus’ question and once more begged him for some money. “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you,” Jesus answered, and with a final compassionate smile at the man, He continued on His way.
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i imagine this made-up parable [yes, you won’t find this one in the original scriptures] will initiate strong reaction in a lot of people. ‘
How did it make you feel? Angry? Confused? Ready to jump in to the comments section in full attack mode?
Well, give me a few more minutes and let’s look at this story and try understand it a little more.
The idea came to me after tbV and i stopped to chat to and help a man lying on the side of the road the other day. We chatted and i really did struggle to understand him as he had been drinking quite a bit and was not making a lot of sense. Also he was Afrikaans which puts me completely on the back foot, or maybe him when i started attempting to speak it back to him.
It was not a big deal at all – we bought him a meal and got to pray with him and said goodbye. We did not give him money for the train ticket he said he needed.
And as we drove home, it got me thinking, ‘What would Jesus do in that situation?’ Like really, what would He actually do? Engaging with drunk and homeless people would have been so much easier if we just had the parable to turn to. Oh, there we go. Sorted.
So i decided to write it. You know, to help everyone else who was wondering the same thing.
And the gut feel is that of course Jesus would have helped the man and possibly healed him of his alcoholism [if that is what he was suffering with] and maybe conjured a meal out of the air and led him to a transformed and God-praising life. But is that really what Jesus would do
WHAT DID JESUS DO?
However [and this is a wrestle piece, so please jump in and give your thoughts] there are a few things that i think we can see in the Bible that might help inform our decision on this. [Be warned: some of these may seem to contradict each other]
# Jesus gave invitations or responded to requests – Typically throughout the Bible, we see this as a trend of how God works with people. A call or a dream or a messenger and the opportunity to respond. In Matthew 19 we see the story of Jesus and the rich young man where Jesus tells him what he needs to do to be right with God and the young man walks away disappointed, because Jesus has targeted his money which had a greater hold on him than the desire to follow God. Jesus doesn’t chase the young man or try to convince him or compromise on the ask. Jesus allows him to walk away. Even at times when it seemed obvious, for example, when Jesus asks the blind man, “What do you want me to do?”
So if it came to an encounter with Jesus and a drunk person, i have to imagine there would be an invitation to change, to receive healing, to change but also the opportunity to refuse that invitation and continue to live in the same way.
The parable of the prodigal son [an actual parable!] shows a father who allows his son to pretty much spit in his face and leave without arguing or coercing or reasoning or threatening. It also shows a father who is committed to keeping an eye out for his son and who is seen running down the path to greet him the moment he is heading home.
On another occasion we see Jesus [ironically in John 6.66] lose a lot of His followers, except for the 12, because some of His teaching is too hard for them to hear: 66 After this, many of His disciples drew back (returned to their old associations) and no longer accompanied Him.
Again, he allows them to leave.
# Jesus didn’t make it easy – Jesus tells the rich young ruler to give up everything. Then in Matthew 15 we see an interesting interaction with Jesus and a Canaanite woman where He tells her He has come to the last sheep of Israel. “Sorry, I can’t help you. You’re not one of us.” And yet when she persists, He rewards her faith and heals her daughter. With the woman caught in sin in John 8 Jesus lets her know that He refuses to condemn her, but He also sends her away with the command to, “Go and sin no more.”
# Jesus does call us to meet the needs of those considered to be the least of these – In Matthew 25 we see the story of the sheep and the goats where it seems to be saying that our actions are what prove significant to God [feed the hungry, clothe the naked, vist those in prison] and while drunk people are not mentioned specifically, are they not considered ‘the least of these’ by so much of society?
# The letter of James, in chapter 2, says this: 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
i’m not sure about you, but this one seems a little complicated.
What would Jesus do if He came across a drunk man, on the side of the street. One thing is for certain, He would love him. But what would that look like and how does it play out?
What do you think?