The wisdom of compassion

The wisdom of compassion | World Vision Blog

Photo: 2013 Paul Bettings/World Vision

Living a life of compassion and justice is obedient to how God wants us to live as Christians. God says that it is advantageous to our own souls to choose to care about the poorest people in the world.

Blogger Haley Bodine explains how the book of Proverbs—a book about living wisely—tell us it is not only good of us to love the poor … it is also good for us.

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If given the choice between being known as a wise person or a foolish one, most (dare I say all?) of us would want to be known as the former. We want to be known as people who live wisely in our homes, at our jobs, and in our communities. We would rather be known for being wise than for being the village fool.

Whether we practice wisdom or not, we generally have an intuitive sense of what actions are wise. We know that it is wise to exercise, and show up to work on time. We know it is wise to manage our finances well, and that eating a vegetable or two is probably going to be a good thing. We know that making wise choices generally leads to better relationships, finances, health, and reputations.

God cares for us deeply. As a good father teaches his children how to make choices that lead to healthier lives, God teaches us the way of wisdom. Out of His concern for our wellbeing, He cares that we choose to live wisely. Thus, the Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. The entire book of Proverbs is dedicated to equipping us to live wisely.

When I was in college, an adult leader in my life challenged me to make it a habit to read a chapter from the book of Proverbs every day in conjunction with my other Bible study time. Proverbs contains thirty-one chapters, and most months have thirty-one days. That meant I could read the entire book of Proverbs twelve times each year.

I’ve been in this habit for twelve years. So far I’ve read the entire book of Proverbs 144 times!

As familiar as I am with the verses, I still have moments where light bulbs and sirens go off in my head and heart. I recently had a moment like this when I was reading Proverbs chapter 31. Christian circles ubiquitously refer to this chapter as the chapter about the wife of noble character. However, there are a few verses leading up to the oft-quoted section that for years—twelve, to be exact—I have casually glossed over.  

Proverbs 31:8-9 says:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,

for the rights of all who are destitute.

Speak up and judge fairly;

defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Throughout Scripture, God makes it very clear that to love Him is to act justly, to provide for the poor, to defend the defenseless, and to stand up for the oppressed and marginalized. To live a life of compassion and justice is obedient to how God wants us to live as Christians.

But tucked away in a book about living wisely are verses telling us that these things are also wise. It is not only good of us to love the poor, it is good for us.

It is beneficial to our lives to be compassionate and to act accordingly. God says that it is advantageous to our own souls to choose to care about the poorest people in the world.

The wisdom of compassion | World Vision Blog
Sponsored child Lorena, 15, speaks on air during a youth radio program in the Dominican Republic. (Photo: 2016 Eugene Lee/World Vision)

 

Social scientists have conducted studies that prove the outcome of living lives full of compassion, generosity, and meeting the needs of the poor. In their book, The Paradox of Generosity, Notre Dame social scientists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson provide empirical evidence validating that acting with justice and compassion on behalf of the oppressed and marginalized is not only good for the poor, but is also good for the one who acts. Smith states:

“By grasping onto what we currently have we lose out on better goods that we might have gained. In holding onto what we possess, we diminish its long-term value to us. By always protecting ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, we are affected in ways that make us more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes. In short, by failing to care for others, we do not properly take care of ourselves. It is no coincidence that the word ‘miser’ is etymologically related to the word ‘miserable.’”

I’ve been processing this new realization for a few weeks now, and it’s been so liberating to embrace that choosing to invest in an organization like World Vision is not only obedient to the mandate of God to care for the poor, but is a matter of practical self-care as well.

My family and I have been able to see this principle in action by becoming child sponsors. Over time we have been able to not only provide much needed financial support, but we have exchanged dozens of letters, pictures, and stories with our sponsored child. But we had no idea how beneficial sponsorship would be within our own home.

We have cultivated deeper relationships with each other through our family partnership to support our sponsored child. My husband and I have been able to talk to our sons about God’s love for all people, about our responsibility to meet the needs of the poor, and about other cultures. We have seen our sons’ hearts grow to want to act out of compassion. Our family has grown closer as we have banded together as a team to love and sponsor this child.

The way of wisdom teaches us that when we choose to take action to meet the dire needs of the poor, we will also meet needs that exist within our own souls. I encourage you to consider taking your next step by choosing to sponsor a child (below) yourself. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that you will be forever changed, and will reap greater benefits that you can imagine.   


Take action to help meet the needs of the poor: choose your child to sponsor today!

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