When We Mistake Charity for Compassion

September 16, 2016

Matthew 20:29-34

29 As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30 Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

31 The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

32 Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

33 “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

34 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.


What a stunning contrast. Did you catch it?

The crowd rebuked them. . . . Jesus had compassion on them

Two blind men.

The crowd saw them as deplorables. In those days, if someone was blind someone must have sinned—the blind guy or his parents or someone. Isn’t it still that way to some degree. When we see someone in jail or on the side of the road begging we think to ourselves (whether we are willing to admit it or not) that they are where they are for a reason. And if we are really honest we will have to admit that deep down we also think we are where we are and we aren’t where they are for a reason. Whatever it was they did, we did not do.

Two blind men.

The crowd rebuked them. . . . Jesus had compassion on them

But the crowd wasn’t a bunch of haters. They were every day ordinary people like us. Even if the crowd wanted to respond to the cries of the blind men, they knew they had nothing really to offer them. I think that’s the big difference. Jesus had something to offer them.

That word, “compassion” as we’ve noted before, holds a depth of meaning beyond the usual way we think of the word. The phonetic spelling of the Greek word is, ‘splangkh-nid’-zom-ahee.” It carries the meaning of a deep inward care for people that comes from the core of one’s identity. The word describes how God feels about the human race. The word describes how God wants us to feel about the human race. It literally means a disposition towards others coming from the internal organs, the heart and guts and such.

The big truth. We will never feel this way about the human race until we step out of the crowd and into the circle of Jesus’ disciples. The beauty of the Gospel is that Jesus will not only form in us this capacity to love other people with power, he will source us with the power of the Holy Spirit to do it. It happens through imitation and impartation. Jesus gives us the model of himself to imitate and he imparts his Spirit to us to make it possible. This is why real discipleship to Jesus is a rigorous, lifelong process.

Jesus wants compassion. Crowds settle for charity. Disciples make the journey from charity to compassion. Charity throws in a few dollars to buy them a new shirt. Compassion gives them the shirt off your back. Charity asks how much can I afford to give. Compassion asks why would I hold anything back. Charity looks for loose change to help the guy on the roadside. Compassion asks the question, “What do you want me to do for you?” 


Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us what compassion looks like in real life. Thank you for showing us it’s not even possible apart from you. Thank you that not only do you teach us imitation but you give us impartation. But let us not wait for the impartation. Instead let us move out in faith that the impartation will come to us as we are obedient to extend ourselves in compassionate care of others. Come Holy Spirit and do it. We pray in your name Jesus, Amen.


1. How do you see the movement and the difference between imitation and impartation?

2. How do you reflect on the compassion of Jesus? Can you see it possible for you? What do you notice about Jesus’ compassion that you want for yourself?

3. Are you settling for charity? What would it look like to stretch toward compassion?


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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ.

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