The Torah of the Messiah

Jesus took up this question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. … But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and on my return I will repay you for any additional expense.’

Luke 10:30, 33-35

This famous passage is Yeshua’s definition of having compassion on one’s neighbor. True compassion is not just a feeling of sympathy, but it is a sympathy that takes action.

The apostle James, whom many consider to be the brother of Yeshua, drills down even further into the practicality of true faith in the practice of compassion with others:

Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

James 2:15-16

Biblical compassion looks outward to others who are in need, beyond the comfort of one’s own personal situation or condition and says, “What can I do to help?”

Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Christ’s teachings.

Galatians 6:2

Paul’s original wording here in his message to the believers in Galatia can be rendered within its Hebraic cultural context as, “In this manner you shall fulfill the Torah of the Messiah.” This aspect of assisting others in need is considered by Paul to be the essence of Yeshua’s teaching, central to everything he stood for and practiced.

If this is the lens through which we should be viewing the life and ministry of Yeshua, then, as his followers, how much more should this same quality be applied in our own lives?

Simply respect others

Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12

Certainly, anything that you wish others would do for you, do in the same manner for them, for this summarizes God’s teachings regarding others.

The simplicity and practical wisdom of this maxim is unsurpassed. We are, after all, self-focused by nature, relating to all other things outside of ourselves as to how we are affected or influenced by them. We know what we like, and we know what is offensive to us. We know when we believe our rights have been violated. We believe we know how we should be treated by others.

Since we are so familiar with ourselves and what we believe we deserve, Yeshua uses this innate familiarity with our own perceived deservedness and turns it on its head by suggesting that is the same way we should treat others. Our actions towards others should be based on our own internal sense of justice, fairness, and equity. This is the essence of compassion.

The logic of this wisdom has been mocked by some who would take a literal rendering to the extreme. “What about individuals who enjoy being harmed by others? Should they go and harm others, because that’s how they would want to be treated?” The folly of this is self-evident: beginning with the premise of a non-universal aberration leads to a faulty non-universal conclusion.

As is typically the case, this type of flawed reasoning stems from isolating this verse from its surrounding context, which gives a broader understanding of how it is intended to be applied. In this passage (7:1-12), Yeshua is admonishing his hearers about overall unfair judgment of others and hypocrisy in their own actions. The Golden Rule is the capstone solution to resolve his preceding points regarding these illegitimate practices.

The fact that this teaching also summarizes the torah or instruction of God is of no small importance. Yeshua here defines the role and universality of the Bible message by summarizing its intent: the instruction of God should cause us to be equitable and compassionate in all of our relationships.

If you like people being nice to you, be nice to them first. If you enjoy being congratulated by others, then look outside your own perspective and do the same to others. If you desire that others provide help to you in your time of need, then find opportunities to do so for others. If you want people to respect your views, then respect theirs. While you may disagree with their conclusions, they still have the same right to hold their views as you do with your own.

Simple respect solves all interpersonal relationships. This type of compassionate living is how God implores all of us to love one another.

The honor of difficult giving

Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. … And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

Luke 6:30, 34-35

Give and loan freely to whoever asks of you, expecting nothing back from them. The distinctive aspect of how believers are supposed to model giving is to go outside the normal boundaries of the culture; to willingly give to those who would be considered unlikely recipients: those who can’t repay, even those who could be considered enemies.

This is not a practice for the faint of heart. Giving as God intends requires mettle and resolve. This is not “feel-good” giving. In fact, this type of giving can hurt because it seems so contrary to common sense.

Why should I give to those whom are unable to repay? Why should I give generously to those who could be considered adversarial?

  • Because this type of intentional giving is what is expected of us by God.
  • Because everything we have is temporary at best.
  • Because everything we have has been provided by God, so why should we hold back what has been freely given to us?
  • Because believers are supposed to be distinctive in this world, not to follow the conventions of the existing culture.
  • Because God is kind to the ungrateful and evil, and our goal is to be like him, and to exemplify his character of compassion in this world.

Giving in this manner has a promise of reward: you will be considered a child of the Most High.

I can think of no higher honor or greater decoration to be bestowed upon us.

Making a Difference

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

Matthew 5:13

Be as distinctive and useful as salt while on this earth. 

The life of a believer should be one of influencing the world around them; not necessarily the whole world, but the extent of their personal reach. This influence should be as natural as breathing to a believer, but as profound as the most challenging ethic to others. An encounter with a believer should be a unique experience, one that carries a distinctive “taste” amidst a world of bland personal opinion and selfish actions.

In being genuinely concerned for the things of God, a believer will naturally demonstrate a quality that stands out from the experiences that most people have in their relationships with others. There will be a positive “something” that separates the believer from the rest of a person’s worldly interactions.

Drawing on the metaphor of Yeshua, salt can be an enhancement to the flavor of food. It is also a means of preservation and healing. These are the characteristics and influences that a believer will have on those around them. All of these stem from a godly heart that wants to influence others for their good while doing the right thing at all times.

If we are not demonstrating these “salty” values, then our faith is serving no real purpose; it hasn’t made a difference to anyone but ourselves.

Ultimately, is that a true faith?

Personal and Private Kindness

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees [what is done] in secret will reward you.”

Matthew 6:1-4

Be privately and sincerely compassionate toward those in need.

Helping others who are unable to help themselves should be a cornerstone of the practices of all believers. However, those who give or help others merely for outward recognition demonstrate the hypocrisy and pride hidden in their heart.

Yeshua relates that there is a lasting spiritual power in the sincere acts of compassion that are done for the benefits of others with no outward recognition. These are the actions that God “sees,” that are accounted as vital human interactions with real, eternal worth.

Compassion is not a business transaction where we may assist another with the hope of some sort of gain for ourselves or our organization. Real compassion is demonstrated when there is no chance of benefit to oneself. A true act of kindness rests within the act itself, solely for the benefit of another.

Be Compassionate

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”

Matthew 5:7

Extend mercy and compassion to others and you will be blessed, receiving mercy in return.

From the Outline of Bible Usage, the word here for mercy has its root in the following meanings:

  • to have mercy on
  • to help one afflicted or seeking aid
  • to help the afflicted, to bring help to the wretched
  • to experience mercy

Additionally, the specific form of the word used in this statement of Yeshua is used in only one other place in the New Testament:

“Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”

Hebrews 2:17

This unique sense of the word in both of these passages implies an active quality of mercy and compassion, one that never slumbers nor relaxes its guard. The compassionate believer is one who is always ready and prepared to provide help and assistance at the slightest indication of need.