Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions How Do We Steer a Course Between Compassion and Wisdom?

How Do We Steer a Course Between Compassion and Wisdom?

I also think of these decisions when I read something like Mark 3:7-10,

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.

Mark is clearly framing these would-be disciples as fickle. They only want to follow Jesus for what they think they can get from him. They are so misinformed and self-conceited that they’ll trample over Jesus just to get a potential healing touch. They aren’t interested in His person. This isn’t discipleship, this is just an excited crowd hoping to get a little touch of goodness.

But what does Jesus do? He tells the disciples to get a boat ready because things could get out of hand. But he also stays for a bit. He doesn’t immediately flee. He meets the crowd where they are.

We need to wrestle with this for a little bit. Jesus isn’t about simply gathering a crowd. He is after deeper discipleship. There is a sub-thread that runs through the gospel accounts where Jesus is constantly trying to escape the crowds. But woven into that thread is another thread—Jesus’ compassion. He still ministers to the crowd, even when they are insincere.

If Jesus were to define his relationship status with the crowds, he’d have to put “it’s complicated”. The crowds here are both a thing to be celebrated—Jesus’ ministry is thriving in spite of the religious leaders opposition. But it also serves as a potential danger.

Maybe I should have forked over that $20.

Should I Have Given the $20?

Jesus’ complicated relationship with the crowds is also seen in places like Luke 4:40-44. The people are begging for Jesus to stay—but he leaves so he can preach the gospel elsewhere. He doesn’t give the $20 it seems.

I believe the Scriptures call us to both compassion and wisdom. Jesus knew His mission. This is why at times He’d stop for a couple hours and chat with a Samaritan woman, but at other times he’d pack up bags and head elsewhere when there was still ministry to be done.

I don’t think the Scriptures call us to an easy answer on these questions. There is not a “you must always give $20” type of answer. Nor is there a “you must never give that $20” answer. We’re called to trust the Spirit and use the wisdom and compassion that God gives to us. Cold, distant, and uncaring attitudes are not permissible. But neither are irresponsible ones.

I think I made the right decision…kind of.

Looking back upon this now, I believe that I should have been bold and brave enough to tell the lady exactly why I wasn’t going to meet her request and invite her into a deeper conversation. Invite her into getting more profound help.

What do you think?


This article about compassion and wisdom originally appeared here, and is used by permission.