2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemeth.’ 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. ~ Matthew 9:2-7 (Also in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26)
Qualifications for the Kingdom, Part 2: Deeds vs. Declarations: How do you see your brother?
When Jesus forgave the palsied man of his sins, the scribes (who were part of the religious elite) questioned in their hearts His authority to do so. Jesus, knowing their thoughts asked them: “For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, ‘Arise, and walk?’” (Matt. 9:5).
The religious leaders had great socio-political influence and the common people were generally afraid of upsetting them (John 5:12-16, John 9:18-23). They determined who was breaking the (Mosaic) law and who was obeying it. Those who broke the law and those who had certain physical ailments (like blindness (John 9) or palsy) were excommunicated (made social outcasts).
Jesus, however, constantly contended with the religious leaders because they made no effort to uplift the people and reveal to them God’s love, grace and mercy; they never actually tried to help those in need: neither spiritually nor physically.
But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in… Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith… Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. ~ Matthew 23:13, 23, 28
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” ~ James 2:14-17
Therefore, one of the reasons Jesus asked the question (v. 5) was to remind them of how easy it was to just talk about who was a sinner/lawbreaker and who was not. (The other reason was to initiate a legal debate.) Verbal declarations are easy (whether positive or negative); the true challenge was in helping people in spiritual and/or physical need. The scribes had a problem with Jesus forgiving the man’s sins, but what had they done to help him spiritually or physically… Nothing! It’s always easier to talk than walk. They simply ignored people, like the palsied man, in their plight. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day had nothing to offer those in need.
Jesus then did what they wouldn’t and couldn’t do, he helped the palsied man, by healing him miraculously. Indeed, both the power to forgive sins and the power to heal come from God alone.
As it was in Jesus’ day, people around us today are in great need, both spiritually and physically (though the spiritual needs are of far greater importance, the Bible makes it clear that the physical needs of our fellow man should never be neglected, e.g., Matthew 25:31-46, James 1:27). It is easy for believers to talk about the situation the world is in; hold meetings and conduct talk-shops. But it is our deeds that are really important, not our declarations: “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26b).
What will we do to help those in need? If the society is in decay, what will you do to stop it? The world grows darker only when our (believers) lights grow dimmer. Church attendance is crucial (Hebrews 10:25). However, it is often what we do outside, rather than inside, of church that has the greater impact. Which is easier, to talk and moan about the unsaved, or to live the Gospel for them to see, to speak the Gospel for them to hear and to help them in their needs because of the Gospel?
Jesus did all he could to help the palsied man, both spiritually and physically. Let us do ALL we can do to minister to the needs of people that come our way. The least we can do is, like the palsied man’s friends, carry those in need to Jesus (Mark 2:3). Qualification for the Kingdom is evidenced in deeds, in how we treat others, not just in what we say. Those who are qualified for the Kingdom of God do, those who aren’t qualified, don’t… They just talk.
But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. ~ 1 John 3:17-18
Therefore, we must ask ourselves the question: How do we see our brothers/sisters? Are our brothers/sisters worth enough to us that we will do whatever we can to meet their spiritual and physical needs? Or, is it enough to just talk about them, to discuss their plight, what they’re doing wrong and what not doing right?
**This is the 2nd installment in a 3-part series on Qualifications for the Kingdom given in Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26**