Numbers 11:25-29, James 5:1-6, Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48
When you go to many places, be it offices, schools, families, communities and even some churches today, one specific thing you must surely discover are people looking for ways to bring the other person down.
Today, many people are living in enmity and crisis. Many self-acclaimed Christians become sick when they see the other person progressing in life.
There is no place that you will not find such among the children of God. Hence, we do not even know that the more we do them, the more we fight ourselves. There is great benefit in supporting one another.
When I was a seminarian, there was a heavy downpour that affected several houses and trees. The orange tree inside the compound where I was living was heavily affected by the rain.
The orange has some good fruits already but is not yet ripe for consumption. So, many people advised the owner to cut one of the branches that was heavily affected.
The downpour pushed the branch to the ground, which made it difficult for people to pass along the way.
When the man picked up his matchet to cut the branches that fell to the ground, the little son said to him “Daddy do not cut the branches. If you cut the branches, you have cut the fruits that it should bear. The best thing is to find something and pull the branches up so that it can support the branches”.
The dad did exactly what the boy said. At last, the tree was not affected and neither were the fruits.
After some weeks, the fruits ripen. The man was happy and started plucking the oranges. The boy looked at him again and said “Daddy you are now enjoying the oranges. Had it been you cut the branches, would you enjoy them today?”
Many of the people we are fighting with today may be the people God has put on our paths to help us reach our destinations in life. Our help may come from that son of your brother, you hate everything about him. It may be from that little lady you hate.
Sometimes we pray to God for a helper and God sends us one. It can be that person we do not like his or her progress in life. But instead of supporting the person, we fight him or her.
What many people and what many of us need in life is a little support. But instead of supporting one another, we are fast to cut down and bring others down like the man in the story.
To support someone means to give someone sincere assistance. It means to encourage one another. To support one another entails building up the other person and giving him a lifting hand.
What we experience today is very far from the early life of the disciples of Jesus Christ. In John 13:34-35, Jesus tells His disciples that they must love one another. It is by this that all people will know that they are truly His disciples.
In Acts 4:32, we can see that all believers remain with one heart and mind. They share everything in common.
To support one another is needed for the growth of any family, offices, churches, ministry etc. In today’s readings, we can see the need we have to support each other.
Do you know that the reason many people keep going down is simply that they fight each other instead of supporting each other? Let us go through the readings in a bit by bit analysis.
Do Not Stop Him.
The gospel of today begins with John telling Jesus that they saw a man driving out demons in the name of Jesus and they tried to stop Him.
Jesus tells them that they do not have to stop Him. Jesus says “‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us”.
There are many things in this account. The first question is “who might the man be? How did he know that there is power in the name of Jesus? And How could he believe that the name of Jesus can work miracles? Where did John go when he encountered this man? Why did He try to stop Him? Why did Jesus say no to His proposal?
To go on an in-depth analysis of this gospel, on the personality of this man, one thing must be sure, it is either the so-called exorcist has heard Jesus teaching the disciples, then he tries to put into practice what He heard. Or he has once followed Jesus before and then watched how Jesus performs His miracle.
The exorcist must have believed in Jesus that He believed that He can deliver people through the name of Jesus. This belief must be a product of encounter. What this means is that this so-called exorcist had faith and hence moved into action.
Therefore, we do not have to be envious of anyone who is putting in some little effort to better the lives of others, who is working for the growth of a family, church, community. We rather have to rally around him or her and support him.
Secondly, in this same chapter of the Bible, Mark 9 from verses 14-28, we would see a sharp contrast between this man and the disciples of Jesus. In that verses, someone brought his son for the apostles to heal.
They could not heal the child notwithstanding that they have been with Jesus all this while. So now when John saw someone who did what they could not do, He tried to stop him. Though John’s reason is that they are not among the disciples of Jesus. Jesus said no to this. The points here are:
1. When we see people who can do what we do not have time to do, instead of trying to stop or pull them down, try and encourage them.
2. When we see people who work for God from the sincerity of heart, we don’t have to stop them or speak ill about them because they do not belong to our group or our beliefs. Because someone does not fit into our system does not mean that what the person does, does not count.
3. John may think that only them have the monopoly of Jesus.
So, no one has Jesus alone. Jesus can make use of anyone. Therefore, we do not underrate anyone who God may be using to bring souls to Him.
4. Jesus says to John “Anyone who is not against us is for us”, therefore, we don’t have to fight those who are working for the same purpose with us. Sometimes we have to accommodate what others have that we do not and work together for the same purpose.
5. Sometimes the problem is that we are so envious of what the person has to offer. John and his brother repeat the same attitude in Luke 9:54 when they desire to call down fire on the Samaritans.
They are the same people who ask Jesus for the opportunity to sit in His right and left, seeking earthly glory (Mark 10:35),. Even the “We” in the gospel of today could also involve his brother James.
In essence, they regard their position as disciples of Jesus as an entitlement. You can see that in his statement. He says to Jesus ” because he is not following us” instead of saying “because he is not following you”. Jesus should be the pointer.
Therefore, John and the “we” put themselves at the centre and not Jesus Christ. So, whenever we put ourselves at the centre instead of Jesus whom we are working for, there is the temptation to always look down on others.
Whenever we see ourselves as the main doer instead of God working through us, we are tempted to think there is nothing others can contribute or that they are not gifted, knowledgeable or placed as we do, then we try to look down on them.
But when we understand that the work we do belongs to God, we would always understand that God can still use anyone.
6. One may ask “What was John seeking that he found this man that others did not find, even Jesus wasn’t aware?
It means whenever we are bent on looking for trouble, we will always see one. It is good to sometimes turn a blind eye to something.
7. Contrary to what John and the disciples expect, Jesus charges them not to prohibit the exorcist. Jesus uses the Greek word kolyete (“‘Do not stop him”). A very imperative word.
Therefore, Jesus is saying “‘Do not stop such people.’” The reason for this is that “‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me.’” It then means that if He is truly working for the salvation of souls, then He is empowered by God. We do not have to stop such kinds of people. We rather support them.
The Need to Support One Another.
The will of God is not for us to fight and attack one another but to work together, win together and support one another. From the readings of today, we can see the reasons we have to support one another. We will take our points from the three readings. The points are:
1. God gives His gifts Freely.
In the first reading, God comes down from the cloud and takes the spirit that is in Moses and puts it on the seventy elders He selects to help him in carrying the burdens of the people.
When the Spirit of God came down on them they began to prophesy. Two men who stayed back in the camp known as Eldad and Medad also received the spirit because they were among those who were chosen but they stayed back in the camp they also prophesied.
When someone reports to Moses about this, Joshua asks Moses to stop them. Just like Jesus in the gospel, Moses tells him, ‘Are you jealous on my account? If only the whole people of the Lord were prophets, and the Lord gave his Spirit to them all!’.
Therefore, Moses is letting him know that God who is the giver of gifts has given this gift freely, so a little man like him does not have to stop them. He does not need to decide for God. In the same way, God has blessed many of us freely.
God gifts many of us in different ways. Therefore, what we need to do is to support them. In the same way, God may have blessed someone among us, in your family, community etc, to be the one to fulfil a particular task.
Therefore, we do not need to become an obstacle to them. What we owe them is maximum support. There is power in supporting one another. The Igbo adage says Igwe bu ike (unity is strength).
2. There is a Reward and Punishment for the things We do.
In the second reading, James thunders against the rich who feed on the poor. He warns that what they store up for themselves is nothing but a burning fire. Now they are living a life of comfort and luxury.
Time is coming when they will start crying, weeping for the miseries that are coming to them. The reason is that they are using their positions to oppress the poor instead of helping them.
Therefore, a great punishment is awaiting them. In the gospel, Jesus says If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward. ‘
But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.
Therefore, God takes notice of all the good and bad acts that we do. Hence, this is one of the reasons we have to support one another instead of bringing their downfall.
Water gives life, so any little act of kindness that we do to support others also counts. God rewards every good thing that we do.
3. We are doing them for Jesus.
In the gospel, Jesus says “‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone around his neck.
The “little ones” here do not refer to children. Jesus says to “these little ones who believe in me,”. Therefore, Jesus is referring to His disciples. Remember that in Matthew 11:25, Jesus praises God the Father for revealing Himself to little children, that is, to disciples.
Therefore whatever we do to believers or followers of Jesus Christ, we do them to ourselves. He says in Matthew 25:40 “‘whatsoever you do for one of the least of these brothers of mine, that you did for me’”
Therefore, when we fight others whose heart is clean, when we work against those who have never think bad of ourselves, let us remember that we are doing that to Jesus. We can see that there is great power in supporting one another.
Therefore, this is a sober warning against inhibiting, injuring, or destroying the faith of simple and ordinary disciples of Jesus Christ.
Cut It Off.
The question we have to ask ourselves now is “how do we curb our excesses? How can we make this happen?
What is the possible way to support others and see that the body of Christ progresses? To answer these, Jesus says that we have to cut everything that we cause dissension among us off.
And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go.
The Greek word for “hell” in vv. 43, 45, and 47 is Gehenna. The name comes from Hinnom Valley, a steep ravine in the southwest of Jerusalem (Josh 15:8) where human sacrifice had been practised under Ahaz and Manasseh (2 Kgs 16:3; 21:6).
This was later abolished by King Josiah (2 Kings 23:10) who made the Hinnom Valley a garbage dump. It later became a symbol of divine wrath and punishment among the jews. The jews feared this place greatly.
Therefore, when Jesus says that it is better to cut their hands or feet rather than carrying them to the Gehenna, depicts how the wrath of God can be.
Therefore, if envy, jealousy derail us from God’s love, we have to cut them off. Cut off every form of hatred, wickedness, pull him down mentality, envy etc.
We have to cut everything off that leads us away from God. It is time to cut them off and support one another. There is power in supporting one another.
1. It is time we have to understand that every blessing comes from God and not from us. It is time we have to understand that God is the giver of every gift.
Since God is the giver of all gifts (Psalm 24:1), we have to understand that our gifts, talents, possessions are really not our own and that we are merely caretakers (Matthew 25:21) of God’s provisions.
Therefore, fighting or envying someone because of what the person did or doing, is a waste of time. What we owe each other is maximum support.
2. If the politicians can keep to this, things will change in the country. If leaders will always give their maximum support to those who work for them or with them, there will be great progress.
Therefore, once the person is not working against you, there is no need to stop him or her. Allow God who is using the person to do the work God assigns to Him.
Just like John is trying to stop someone busy doing the work of God, it is the way many of us are planning evil against one another because the person is trying to use his /her gifts.
Therefore, instead of fighting the person, Let us work together. When we work together, it unites us and helps to bring us closer together. It brings more productivity than when we fight against each other.
3. Therefore, we need to work together. We need each other. Togetherness can open many closed doors. We have to be sensitive to the plights of the poor and the marginalised in our societies.
We do not use what God gives to us as a form of intimidation. They are not ways to show others that we are better than them. Rather, God gives them to us to bless others. When you have, always remember others.
4. We can support others financially, materially, and spiritually etc. Sometimes what the other person needs from us is a little encouragement, a little pat on the back, and a little prayer. Few words that we utter can help someone come out of depression.
5. Finally, Just as God gifted the other person, God also gifted us. Instead of working against him or her, let us use that time to work for our good. Many families today would have grown to a level they would not imagine, if not that they spent most of their time working against each other.
Today, many friends set up another friend thinking that they are doing the person, not knowing that they are fighting themselves.
Many communities today are in shambles. Some lack progress because they are busy fighting themselves.
Their interest is to cut the branches like the story I told above without knowing that the branch we cut off today, can be our shelter tomorrow.
Many organisations would have grown to great heights today, if not that the person in charge was busy fighting someone under him because of a selfish reason without knowing that with the person, the organisation will rise higher.
Sometimes the person we try to cut away today can be the shelter we may have tomorrow. We have to undertake that there is power in supporting others.
May God continue to bless you and give us the strength to be more closer to Him. Remain blessed.