You may have heard the recent story of Antoine Turner, the Boise State recruit who was homeless and who Boise State had to ask the NCAA permission to help with living accommodations.
Two things struck me about this case, besides the obvious of having to ask permission to do the only humanly decent and logical thing for a person who was homeless (that any person or school would have to ask permission to help indicates how misplaced our priorities are in today’s society).
First, the NCAA’s quick response of letting Boise State know the school could help this young man gave me hope that all decency and common sense hasn’t been lost in this world – especially the world of “big-time” college football.
And second, that the willingness of the school and the commonsense approval by the NCAA showed that the most basic of Jesus’ teachings can be learned or taught through non-Christian entities. I’m not saying that people within those institutions are not Christian, but that those institutions are non-Christian and that we can learn a lot (or at least be reminded) that the most basic Christian gestures of helping the homeless is close to God’s heart, and, one could argue, an indicator of whether or not we’re even followers of Christ.
Before you think I’m reaching, or before you accuse me of adding anything to salvation or that I’m judging, read a few passages of Scripture below to see how God views the actions of helping (or not helping) the poor, needy or homeless.
First, God calls it dead faith to not help; a faith that is not alive, non-existent, not real. A false faith dressed up as someone who attends church or talks about God, but has no real relationship with the Creator of the universe.
Still don’t believe me? Check it out.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 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? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.” James 2:14-18
Second, Christ says those who help the poor, needy or homeless are directly helping Christ and will be welcomed into His Kingdom.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40
Third, God tells us what will happen to us, as believers, when our actions show that we care.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.” Isaiah 58:6-11
Antoine Turner hasn’t had an easy life. He was born in New Orleans, but his family was forced to move when Hurricane Katrina hit. His mom died from cancer when he was 4 years old. His dad isn’t involved in his life.
Turner needed a place to stay. He slept on park benches, and at other times in his girlfriend’s car, and, for about six months, he lived with his girlfriend’s parents and even an uncle, but both stays ended when the government told him he couldn’t stay any longer because of some heartless government regulation.
But some people reached out and did something about it and reminded me that helping the needy, poor or homeless touches God’s heart in a way that should move us to action.
Who is the Antoine Turner in your life? Is it a single person or a group of people? Identify them. Now, ask yourself if you’re doing anything about it?
If so, great!
If not, ask yourself why and read this from James 2 one more time: “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?…In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith; I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
If that doesn’t cause you to take action (or your heart to jump), check your pulse – and ask yourself why, if something is so close to God’s heart, it isn’t close to yours?
This column was published in Sports Spectrum’s Summer 2014 print issue. Brett Honeycutt is the managing editor of Sports Spectrum magazine. His column addresses topics from a biblical perspective. Follow him on Twitter-@Brett_Honeycutt.